In Conversation with Robert Kubica

Poland’s only Formula 1® race winner, Robert Kubica, joined us for a Q&A during our Paddock Club Party at the recent Hungarian Grand Prix. “I’m in a different position now, but that’s life. I’m still enjoying Formula 1 and passionate about the sport,” says the driver responsible for one of F1®’s most inspirational comebacks.

F1 Experiences Hungary Robert Kubica 2018 Friday 162

On his Formula 1® debut and early years with BMW Sauber

It was a spectacular period for me; signing a contract with BMW Sauber, becoming test driver and then race driver. I debuted here in Hungary in 2006 as race driver for BMW Sauber, replacing Jacques Villeneuve. Not many people remember, but I finished in the points in my first race, in 7th place. Unfortunately, I got disqualified because my car was underweight. But I did score a podium in my third race, at Monza.

In 2008, we had a very strong start to the season. Our car was not the fastest, but we were very consistent. After winning in Canada, I was actually leading the Championship. Later, for political reasons, the team decided to focus on 2009. The new KERS technology was introduced. BMW put a lot of time, energy and investment into this technology. They were very keen to develop it. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out and the board of BMW decided to pull out of Formula 1®.

On why he took up rallying

Formula 1® is a very competitive sport, and when you are racing against the best drivers in the world, you are always trying to become even better. Although rallying is a completely different kind of motorsport, I felt that it could give me some kind of advantage. It did work out pretty well on some occasions. I finished second in Australia [2010] on debut for Renault. We were completely out of position, but stopped first for slick tyres on a drying track and gained eight positions. I still think I drove my best season in F1® in 2010 because rallying helped me to become a better driver.

The long road to recovery

I suffered big injuries as a result of my rally accident in February 2011. There was a risk I would never recover. Probably, if I hadn’t been a Formula 1® driver, I would not be standing here with my arm. The situation was very serious. It has taken me almost seven years to recover, but here we are again, in Hungary. I’m in a different position now, but that’s life. I’m still enjoying Formula 1 and passionate about the sport.

There wasn't a single moment when I realised coming back to Formula 1 was possible. I started my recovery and set my goals step by step, in small increments. Most people thought I was completely crazy to go back into rallying, but I had my reasons. I used rallying to start over. I needed a new environment which was completely different. I got better results than I expected. My body developed in a different way, because I have limitations now. I have to adapt my life around these limitation, not only as a racing driver.

My goal was to get back to the highest motorsport category possible. That didn’t necessarily have to mean Formula 1. I started exploring my capabilities in smaller formula cars and realised I could do it! I also started to understand why I could do it. The first mistake I was making in the beginning was trying to do things I used to do in exactly the same way. But this didn’t work due to my limitations. I started learning my body, developing different skills which in the end have helped me to return to Formula 1. In the end, I can still drive a Formula 1 car at a high level. When I realised this last year, after I first started testing with Renault, and then with Williams, it was a crucial point in my life. Since then, I’m much more relaxed. I’m not racing, which is still the goal, but so much has changed in the way I see things and my mind set.

On his current testing role with Williams

You can split my role into three different parts. I’m here as a reserve driver, so in case something happened to one of the drivers and they cannot race, I would have to step up and of course I’m ready to do it. Second, I’m taking part in tests, although Formula 1® has quite a restricted number of test days. I still have some possibilities to test the current car, which is good to keep up momentum and know what is going on with the car, to give better and more precise feedback to the engineers. I’m also doing the simulator. The role of F1® simulators have become more important due to the testing restrictions.

His greatest success

In karting, I was winning quite a lot at the international level in 1998-99. At that time, Italy had the strongest karting competition in the world. I was the first non-Italian to win that Championship when I was 13. I will always remember this win, especially since I did it with my parents and a mechanic friend. We were racing against the top teams; it was something special and unique to win.

The future...

I recently heard that I was going to be racing for Force India! But it’s just a rumour, unfortunately! Let’s say my first choice is the team that guarantees me a grid slot in Australia next year.

Want to meet Robert Kubica? The Pole will also be joining us in the Champions Club at the upcoming Italian Grand Prix, but spaces are limited!