Robert Kubica, 25
There are puns-a-plenty when Robert Kubica gets pole position during qualifying for any of the races. Because Robert is also F1’s first Polish driver.
But jokes aside, Robert is also one half of F1’s tallest team (he stands at 1.84m, while teammate Vitaly Petrov stands at 1.85m), and has a wealth of F1 experience behind him. From 2006 – 2009 he drove for BMW Sauber as their reserve driver, but got his first chance at racing at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix when teammate Jacques Villeneuve had an accident at the German Grand Prix and was deemed unfit to race. Jacques left the team soon after, and Robert took over his position for the rest of the season.
He had a brilliant runs with the team, finishing with points for 10 of the races and then finishing 6th overall in the championship in 2007. In 2008, he won his first victory at the Canadian Grand Prix and finished 4th in the driver’s championships.
So far with Renault F1, he’s had two podium finishes in third place, and 11 top 10 finishes. If he can polish up the rest of the year, Robert looks set to finish in a good position.
Apart from a few retirements this year, you’ve been consistently finishing in the top 10 - how do you think you’ll do for the rest of the season?
The first thing we must do is remember where we were at the start of the season, and what people expected from us. I don’t think many people would have bet any Euro on us, or on the fact we’d have scored three podiums by now. So this is very positive, and I have qualified in the top ten at every race so far. Looking to the final races of the season, I think we made a good step forward in Belgium with the introduction of our f-duct, and I hope we can score some good results before the end of the year. The focus for the whole team is to try and beat Mercedes to fourth place in the constructors’ championship, but we know it will be very tough because they are strong competitors, and the battle with the other teams is very tight.
What result are you hoping for at the Singapore Grand Prix?
I’m not the kind of person who likes to make predictions because so many factors can change the performance from one weekend to the next. Obviously, I hope we can be competitive in Singapore – like I hope before every weekend! But we need to wait and see how the car performs on Friday before we can really predict how we will perform.
Off the track, how do you prepare for a race?
I train every day to stay in shape physically, and I am in contact with my engineers to understand the latest developments on the car and what they will change for the weekend. And, of course, I do some rallying; I’m not sure if this helps me actually drive better, but it helps me stay sharp.
As the first Polish driver in F1, do you hope that there’ll be other Poles competing next time?
I am really focusing on my job and achieving my maximum potential. I am proud to represent my country in Formula 1, but it is still a new sport for many of the people in Poland, and they are learning more about it all the time. But at this stage of my career, I am concentrating on achieving the maximum I can for myself.
How has the switch from Sauber to Renault been? Was it hard to adjust to a new team?
I think every team has its own way of working, its own philosophy, and also its own strengths and weaknesses. I had very good relationships with the people at my last team and the same is true at Renault. In the beginning, we had to work together to find solutions from some parts of the car I wasn’t comfortable with, and they showed that they listen and respond. This is the team with which I first drove an F1 car, in 2005 after winning the World Series by Renault, and we are working very well together and making good steps forward.
You’re fairly low-key off the circuit but you’re quite a keen poker player. Some of the drivers have said it’s hard to play against you because they’re not sure when you’re bluffing or not. How did you start playing poker and what do you enjoy about it?
I used to play poker with the other drivers but not so much any more. I have a habit of changing my hobby every year, when I get bored with something and stop having fun I move on. I have tried bowling for a while, poker too, and this year I have been doing a lot of rallying – which is something that wasn’t possible at my last team but is now with Renault.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re off the track?
Away from the circuit, I like to have a normal life, nothing to do with celebrity or big parties. The passion I really have is rallying, and I have been able to do some rallies this year between the races thanks to the team. I’m really enjoying myself because I think I'm able to take the car to a good level - nearly to the limit but not over - and it's always a nice feeling for a driver when you're driving well, and extracting the potential from the car. But I have to keep in mind that my main job with Renault is F1, so before every stage I count to ten to cool down! When you drive a car, you're not thinking about the risks, but somehow I have to keep in mind that I'm enjoying myself without going too far.
If you hadn’t become a race driver, what else would you be doing, a professional poker player, perhaps?
Even when I was go-karting, I never thought F1 was a realistic goal because it was so far off. I think I would probably still be racing go-karts, or involved in motorsport in some way.