F1PP is proud to repost the interview below, with approval from it’s author, F1 Talks. If you haven’t come across this site before, you owe yourself a favour to follow on Twitter (@F1Talks) and of course, make regular trips to the website – f1talks.pl. Proudly Polish with articles written in both Polish and English (and easily translatable to a variety of languages) F1 Talks has been a long time friend of F1PP – and so enjoy this article below all about Robert Kubica and his plans for the future.
F1 Talks reports: Twenty four hours ago Robert Kubica sat down with three journalists working for Eleven Sports, F1 official broadcaster in Poland, and gave one of the longest, most open and positive interviews that I have ever seen. My English may be far from perfect but I decided to make a full transcript and translation of this interview for all Kubica’s fans who are cheering him around the world.
Robert about his test in Valencia:
That was really emotional moment and I felt like a little boy, like starting from zero. From the other hand, I’m older and it’s getting harder to get some sleep than it was 15 years ago. Emotions were on high level and sensations stayed with me to this point and will stay a little bit longer.
The last few years were full of different type of events, also on a sporting side. My rally debut was quite emotional but it was related to new experience and learning process. To test an F1 car after six years was a big thing but I must say I thought would be worse – it would be harder to keep my emotions under control. Being back in an F1 car cockpit was like going back home, like going back to my daily job. The test – it’s not a race or race weekend but I was trying to do my own test and to do my job as good as I only can.
It was one of the best moments that day – the first laps behind the steering wheel – to feel everything was under control like there was no break [in my career]. It was one of the biggest shocks [for me] behind the wheel and positive moment. After six years without racing [in F1] and with my limitations there were a lot of question marks. I’m the type of person that always wants to have everything under control and during the test I could get to that point quite quickly. I felt very confident behind the wheel. It wasn’t the same cockpit that I left [in 2011] but many things there were still like what I wanted to use, designed or changed during my last season – and it helped. It was a nice welcome. I felt like I was home. Everything looked familiar and I get familiar feelings. I don’t want to go too much into the details but that cockpit was made just for me.
To be honest I was working a lot to be prepared and my physical form was never as good as it is now – even in the golden times of my F1 career. My hard work helped a lot. I was ready for almost anything – many things were beyond my control until that day. It turned out it wasn’t so scary and it was not as far as it might seem before the test. It’s quite close and being honest I can say that the F1 car was the most conducive to drive from all the cars that I raced after the accident, with my limitations. It’s a nice surprise.
When I have a target, I will do everything to reach it. The F1 car test was my target for the last 16 months. I did it. As I said there were a lot of question marks. Now I have almost all the answers – positive answers. I don’t know what future will bring. I’m still doing my thing – training hard. Today my bathroom scale showed that my weight is at a record low. It wasn’t that low even in golden times in 2008 when I was quite slim. I’m in good shape and that is the most important thing. There is also a sacrifice, an enthusiasm for the work so we will see what the future will bring.
There is a lot of work to do but not as much as it might seem before the test. From the physical form point of view it’s better than I could expect in the best scenarios. If we are talking about my feelings in the car, in last years I learned a lot about the human brain and how limitless it is, and the first three laps in Valencia looked like I was out of the car only for a month. I felt that behind the wheel, I saw that in my driving and it was one of the best moments, one of the best pieces of information that I received in the last few years.
You need to work every day. If you think you reached the target it’s a moment when you are going to go down. I will continue my work and it all depends on my sporting targets and where I will go. Fans’ imagination and expectations – people from motorsport and F1 – just woke up after the test. I sleep very calmly because I know I can drive an F1 car and I’m able to do it fast and consistent and I don’t feel and big problems coming from my limitations. What will be in the future? Where I will appear? What will be a main target for me? I don’t know – but I’m still working, just like in the last 12 months, in full swing and I will try to do it step by step. The most important thing is to use what I could build in last months and calmly wait for another target, that I will be able to reach in the future.
I think lap times are not so much important. I could use thousands of words to describe the test but I think the best summary for a whole test came from the guy who worked with me in 2010 – he was close to me in the team – and was in Valencia that day. He said one sentence describing everything: “The most important thing is you are still an F1 driver.” I know it’s not reality – I’m not on the grid, but to hear those kinds of words from the guy who saw many great drivers – who was with me in 2010 – means a lot. It’s a great feeling. From the other side, we should stay calm and not try to think of what will happen. Time will tell. People didn’t give me a lot of chance to be back in an F1 car and I did it – I did it in style in my opinion. It’s not about lap times. It was just a matter of time – five or fifty laps – to get there. I could check that I am I able to drive a car at the same level as before – and I was able. I don’t want to say how many laps I needed to be find the pace. That afternoon conditions were difficult. Track temperatures were far above 60C so tyre degradation was high. It was one of my first tests with Pirelli tyres – it was new for me – and long stints, with the car full of fuel. It wasn’t easy but I was consistent.
In Valencia Kubica tested the Lotus E20. It’s quite an old car and there is a lot of questions on how he will handle with a hybrid car. Here is how he reacted to this kind of question:
To be honest I don’t think [I will have any problems with new cars]. New cars are faster in the corners but it’s not a big difference compared to 2012 cars. New cars are faster than last year’s cars or cars from the penultimate season when downforce was reduced. Lap times were low but time was gained mostly on the straights and the corners were slow. Now old standards are back. Speeds in the corners are like 2008 so after 10 years the situation has changed. Taking the corner 5 or 10 km/h faster it’s not a problem and I’m quite calm about that. If I will get a chance to test a new generation car, I don’t think it will be a problem for me. Of course, I must learn many things, to learn new parts but it’s just a matter of time. But we should stay calm and don’t put me into the car. If I will get a chance I will do the job as good as I can and I will try to learn as much as I can but it’s beyond my control.
I knew it [the test] would generate a lot of attention. It’s nice how people are talking about me. It looks like I’m not as bad as some people and some journalists are describing me! Some people still appreciate the work I did in the past when I was racing in F1. There are not many people left at Sauber from my era but in Renault there is still a lot of people that I worked with – and I think if they didn’t have good memories, this test would never have happened. I think it wasn’t a coincidence. In the last two years, I wasn’t involved in any serious racing program and many people didn’t understand that. I can’t say that my plan was confirmed in every detail. I had some difficult moments when I was almost sure I will be a part of different racing programs but it didn’t materialize. If I must be honest now I do not regret it. One day in an F1 car and a chance to feel again what I was loving and I still love, what is my passion, gave me so much more and I would never change it for anything else. So, you shouldn’t give up and you should do your thing and believe.
Kubica about current state of racing in F1, DRS and refuelling:
F1 has changed its image not only from the cars point of view but also in the racing aspect. I think F1 is on a good path. It’s not about how many motorhomes we have and how hospitality units look in the Paddock – but to see the smile on the drivers’ faces and to give them have a chance to race on the limit and to fight for every inch. In last seasons, it was quite different. I know that from the simulators that sometimes races were won and the cars were 2 seconds slower than the full potential. It was all about tyre degradation and to keep them in a good shape for many laps. It wasn’t a proper fight for thousands of seconds but calculation. For sure, there is still a little bit of that but a huge step forward was made and I think it’s a good direction.
The environment is now much better and many drivers like it much more than in previous seasons. The most important thing is that drivers again are in a fight for every thousandth of a second and they are working to make the car even faster. Therefore, we see one week one driver has more problems and a week later someone else is struggling. We are again in that place when you need to work to optimize your package. Of course, tyres are still playing a big role. Almost all the drivers are struggling to put the tyres in the optimal window. Tyres are harder than last years and for the drivers like me and for some of my friends in the Paddock, that is a positive thing.
I wasn’t a fan of DRS and I didn’t have a chance to race with it. My last test in Valencia in 2011 was a debut of DRS. Last season there were a lot of cat and mouse games and even if the driver had a chance to make a move a corner before [the DRS zone] during the braking it was better to wait, not to take a risk to destroy the tyres. DRS gives you a chance to minimize the risk or even decrease it to zero and use the higher speed. DRS is still there, zones have changed a little bit, the new cars are wider and it’s not a problem on most tracks. But as we saw in Monaco it made drivers’ life a little bit complicated. It’s not easy to feel the car’s width and drivers must get used to it. As I said tyres let them to do a bit more and it’s the best change that F1 made this year.
I think [refuelling] won’t appear again. My last season with refuelling was 2009 and I think it would change racing – put it closer to sprint races with more different strategies. It would make racing more interesting but on the other hand more complicated on the operational side. For some reason refuelling was banned and I think F1 won’t go down that path again – but as I said I hope I’m wrong.
In the past Kubica said many times it’s too hard for him to follow the series and to visit the paddock. Looks like many things have changed:
Do I have time [to watch the races]? I have it more than I need. I have that luck that I’m a part of the F1 Paddock – and I know following F1 from outside is not so easy. It looks quite easy from outside but we are missing a lot of details to get the whole picture. It’s a complicated sport and not easy to follow. It’s hard to get right conclusion watching from the outside. People think it’s all so simple. I’m following races because it’s the king of motorsport and the races are interesting. Many of my friends are still racing there so I watch every race but not going into details or holding thumbs up for someone.
Robert about new tracks, how long F1 calendar should be and about current season:
The track in Baku I saw only on the TV. It’s an interesting street circuit and the margin for error is quite small. I like this kind of track. I’m a fan of it so I would like to race there. From a fan perspective, you want even more races but from the driver’s point of view we are on the limit. It’s not even about the drivers – but about the teams. Cost are huge. In the past, there were two teams inside the team – one for testing. There were more mechanics and now there are limits. Big teams – not officially – still have more people and kind of two teams. We must remember that F1 is more than only the top three teams. We have small teams working really hard to be on the grid in Australia. We need to see the whole picture and think about everyone.
It’s an interesting season and we had a sign of this during the tests in Barcelona. Tests are not always a good reference point but the first part of the season showed that we have close racing. In my opinion, the main roles will not only be played by Hamilton and Vettel, but also by ‘number 2’ drivers – Raikkonen and Bottas. In the second part of the season, they will play an important role in the title fight.
Kubica is a close friend to Fernando Alonso. According to Robert it’s only a matter of time until the Spanish driver will take a new path. How good is Verstappen and was Alonso able to win Indy 500?
Talking about Fernando’s hardcore season it’s not about if but when. I will make it straight: I do not envy him. As I said before it looks different from the outside. In every team, sooner or later there are some problems, situations that no one in the team want to be a part of. Conflicts are inevitable. It’s not a good situation for the drivers, for McLaren and for Honda – and even for F1. I hope one day they will be able overcome this situation – hope dies last – I wish them all the best. Fernando is the best or one of the best drivers and he showed it even during this season. But to be competitive you also need a good package and he’s been missing it for several seasons.
I would like to race with every driver (huge smile) so I don’t have any preferences. It’s hard to say who’s a similar driver to me because every driver has his own unique style. Verstappen is phenomenal. Last year he wasn’t irresponsible, he was in the position where you can take some risk. He doesn’t have a car to fight for the title so he’s trying to take every opportunity he can. His win in Barcelona – I’m not emotional guy – but when I put myself in his cockpit and looked at this from an F1 perspective – I think it’s a great piece of history. When I’m thinking how he made it and about the time he had to do this and what road he went and how mature driver he is… I have a goose bumps. He is a revelation of last year.
I think Fernando had only one target going to Indianapolis and he was quite close to reaching it. For me it wasn’t a surprise he was fighting for the win the race. We are talking about one of the best drivers in F1 and motorsport history – and that’s the reality. It’s all about the skills and we must be realists. It’s not easy to go into an unknown but we are talking about one of the most talented drivers – and I’m not talking about last 10 or 15 years but about the history of the sport. It’s quite simple really.
And the future?
I have a plan in my head. I could write many different scenarios but many things have happened in my life during the last six years, and to be honest many things changed also inside of me. I will be working to reach my targets – targets that I’m able to reach. I will try to make it happen. It’s too early to talk about the future, what will happen. I know only one thing and I’m in full control of this. I will be preparing to reach the highest goals. Three months ago, my target was to test an F1 car and I think I was prepared. What is my new target? It would sound stupid if I would say a have no new target. I got a huge boost after Valencia and my self-confidence is much higher now. I know how my limitations are influencing my driving and that’s positive aspect. What future will bring? It’s beyond me.
And asked about a seat at McLaren…
These days you cannot be picky. No, I’m joking. I don’t know if it will be F1 or something else. I am working on several projects, I’m part of some projects that will soon see the light of day. So, we will see.
(Original article hosted on F1Talks.pl)