Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica share the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix. The pair battled at Magny-Cours and clashed at Fuji last year – but they’ve been racing each other since they first met in karts nine years ago.
In 2004 the pair were team mates at the most prestigious race on the Formula 3 calendar – the Macau Grand Prix.
Kubica took pole from Hamilton in qualifying after the British driver crashed. Team boss John Booth said he was worried Hamilton was going to crash again in the morning warm-up and only let him do three laps while Kubica set a net lap record around the sinuous street circuit.
The event began with a qualification race to set the final grid and Kubica led away from Hamilton. But an audacious move around the outside of the first corner gave Hamilton a lead he was never to lose.
The hopes of a grand showdown between the two in the final were dashed early on. Nico Rosberg sprinted into the lead and as Hamilton harried him Rosberg hit the barriers and Hamilton was powerless to avoid him.
Kubica ended up second, less than 0.7s behind winner Alexandre Premat, the Frenchman who would be Rosberg’s team mate in GP2 in 2005, and Hamilton’s in 2006.
But the Hamilton and Kubica rivalry goes even further back than that. Kieran Crawley, who helped guide Hamilton through karting, explained some of the gamesmanship between the two at race starts Mark Hughes’s “Lewis Hamilton – The Full Story”:
You had to run the engine really slowly and adjust the carburettor as you sloed to a stop and it was quite a tricky thing to do – and Lewis was always stalling it. It would run too rich and oil up the plug. Kubica realised that this was a problem for Lewis and whenever they were at the front of the grid together, Kubica would slow the pace right-down to make it extra-difficult, sometimes even looking across at Lewis and laughing.
It was a problem so we took the kart to a building site in the evenings near where we were staying in Italy and we spent hour upon hour just practising it – until he got it. After that he was really good at it – and even managed to make Kubica stall once or twice!
There’s not much chance of either tricking the other into stalling tomorrow but this rivalry may last a lot longer if BMW prove quick enough.
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