Robert Kubica: the driver debates

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The first of many? Robert Kubica scored his maiden win at Montreal

Robert Kubica: he’s just won his first Grand Prix, he’s a megastar in his native Poland, and he’s still only 13 points off the world championship lead.

Whether or not he’s world championship-winning material hardly seems to be a debate any more. But who will he driving for in the future, and what is his best chance of getting into a championship-winning car?

Renault must rue letting Kubica slip through their fingers. After he won the World Series by Renault he tested one of their F1 cars but was signed by Mario Theissen. He made his F1 debut at the Hungaroring in 2006 and would have scored but was disqualified for being fractionally underweight.

Within three races he was on the podium and last year he bounced back from a horror shunt at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and might have won at Shanghai had he not suffered a rare failure.

Earlier this year I picked him as the best driver of the first half of the season. He gelled with BMW’s F1.08 right from the off – he finished in the top five in the first eight races, except at Melbourne, when he was hit by Kazuki Nakajima after having run a strong second.

Kubica’s journey to F1 from Poland – a country not endowed with the kind of motor racing structure found in Britain – underlines the strength of his determination. He spent much of his junior career in Italy, and unlike contemporaries Lewsi hamilton and Nico Rosberg he didn’t have the support of a top F1 team or a dad with a world championship title to help him towards his goal.

He admits he has found it hard to get used to his stardom at home and it’s clear just how strong the support for Kubica is in Poland. Over a third of the fans at the Hungaroring had come over from Poland, and tens of thousands poured onto this website from several Polish sites just to cast their vote for him as their favourite driver.

Despite all this, BMW are yet to take up an option on his services for 2009. They are believed to have until the end of September to make their call.

Rumours have suggested he, along with Fernando Alonso, is being targeted by Ferrari for their 2010 line-up. But BMW have moved steadily forward since taking over Sauber in 2006, so should he think about moving or stay put?

Read more about Robert Kubica: Robert Kubica biography

Robert Kubica was BMW's third driver before being promoted to the race team

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on “Robert Kubica: the driver debates”

  1. Ferrari all the way! BMW are a good team no doubt but which driver in his right mind would pass up an oppertunity to drive in the red team, to try and be the next schumi. Kubica is one of the best drivers at the minute and should combine his talents with that of a championship winning team not hang around BMW waiting till they catch up.

  2. He should stay with BMW, he has found a right team to grow with. The day is not too far, when BMW comfortably fights for both the titles equally with the top two on the grid. McLaren already has a long term driver line-up, Ferrari is looking for a change in another two or three seasons. But, I’m sure, by then they’ll have lot more budding talents like vetel, (or who knows Senna) along with Alonso and Kubica.

    In my opinion, if all the good drivers look for a seat in Ferrari or McLaren, then F1 would never see another team coming up to fight them! BMW as of now, looks good for a third force in F1 next season, it is the right place for Kubica to do wonders. It’ll be difficult for Kubica to adapt to a F2010, when compared F1.10 – in which he will have a lot of his inputs!

  3. amazing driver, doesn’t seem to suffer from F1 politics too. And his throttle control is on another level.

    regarding the voting article, hugely entertaining, from what i understand F1fanatic was in a polish newspaper urging poles to vote for him on this site, BRILLIANT.

  4. Alonso is much more suited to Ferrari in temperament
    and Kubica to BMW.

    Ferrari are not against lead drivers, and are sufficiently Machiavellian that Alonso’s paranoia would in fact be in its element — they would likely pull together coherently in an attempt to out-politic the rest of F1.

    Kubica’s matter of fact and down to earth approach is
    culturally spot on for a German team.

    Jaundiced perhaps but likely correct….

    And let’s face it Bernie’s ideal of three fastest drivers in tree different teams is well judged.

    Bring on the next 5 years of Alonso v Kubica v Hamilton!

  5. Paul Sainsbury
    18th August 2008, 13:19

    I agree with Peter, I think he is well suited to BMW.

    He is a great driver, no doubt, but I must confess he freaks me out slightly, as I think he looks like Dracula!

  6. Have to agree with you there Peter. Kubica’s temperament does seem to fit the BMW and dare I say it German psyche more (apologies for that sweeping generalisation) rather than the ‘out-and-out’ and ‘flamboyant’ passion of Ferrari. As a tifiso however, I wouldn’t be upset if he was signed up with the Reds :-)

    But I also have to agree with Mani’s comment regarding potentially great drivers not always heading to Ferrari/McLaren so as to improve the development of the other teams like BMW/Red Bull/Renault. It would be great for the sport if there were more than two potentially WDC/WCC winning teams.

    I am very excited with what Robert can and most probably will do in the future. He is very very fast and thus far has proven that he isn’t proned to making unforced errors. Consistency is a necessary component of a title challenge and he has it!!

    I also think that a Kubica/Vettel pairing would be exciting regardless of what team they’re driving for as I also believe that Vettel will most probably be another star of the future.

  7. Kubica is no doubt in the top 5 drivers today and should stay with BMW, but also BMW should start to invest in him and develop the car in the direction their winning driver needs. They tried to make the car start suiting better Heidfeld and his style is simply too different from Kubica’s hence the recent lack of good runs in the points.

    Ferrari w/o the magic four (Michael, Ross, Jean, Rory) is going backwards – was already seen this year, will be more so next year. So I’d advise no driver to move to Ferrari.

  8. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    18th August 2008, 13:52

    i rate him very highly and i would be very suprised if he didnt win a couple of tittles. his consistency this year has been superb, exactly what is needed to win championships. Who he’ll drive for is an intresting one i think, ive sensed hes abit dissapointed at bmw’s decision to concentrate on next year. Im also suprised bmw havent taken up their option on him yet as hes one of the hottest properties in f1 right now so i dont understand why they havent signed him.

    i think kubica might have to leave bmw if he is to realise his potential. Its all right saying that because they’ve achieved their goal of winning a race that they dont need to work on this years car. but they may never get a better chance of winning a tittle. they could get it wrong next year and end up like honda. i think kubica knows this. And although technically they have achieved their goal for 2008 by winning a race, they didnt win it with outright pace. they won because hamilton drove into raikkonen. i think theyve made a mistake by stopping development on this years car.

    all in all though kubica is a great driver and will surley win plenty of races and he should win a couple of tittles aswell.

  9. I think Robert Kubica and Lewis Hamilton are almost carbon copies of each other in terms of driving style. They use almost the same braking points on the track, they use the same braking, shifting, and steering inputs, and both are very adept at manipulation of dynamic energies. Both mens’ car control is at the very top of the sport. Both seem to have an ability similar to Raikkonen’s to just lay down a ridiculous lap in quali or a group of laps during the race when the time comes. I would argue that Lewis has the edge in car control and the technical nature of his style, while Kubica has an advantage in determination and consistency. I would rate them 2A and 2B in the field, behind only Raikkonen.

  10. As far as the team for whom he’ll race, I think he should stay with BMW. The team is clearly building for a bright future and will have great leadership under Dr. Theissen. He’s got a great situation with his new race engineer, with whom he works very well.

  11. Can’t see he has much option other than to stay with BMW for at least next year , because apart from Ferrari and McLaren who both have their drivers for next year , he would be going backward. It is a concern that BMW seem to have changed their car towards the direction of suiting Heidfeld more and at Kubica’s slight loss of pace as a result , it appears. May show they favour the German in a German team , which Kubica would have spotted. But if BMW does not renew his contract , and instead takes on Alonso , he may look towards Toyota , who currently appear faster than BMW. And Jarno could go back to his old team Renault.

  12. Jean,

    by what measure do BMW appear to be “changing their car to suit Heidfeld?” That’s a pretty outrageous statement with virtually no evidence to back it.

    If BMW brings in Alonso to replace anyone, it would surely be Heidfeld. Kubica is the better driver, he’s won their first GP, he’s outqualified and outscored Heidfeld, and he’s been in title contention since go at Australia.

  13. His pace hasn’t really impressed me to be honest, and when he does qualify well he is shortfuelled. Also, haven’t seen much passing skill, whereas Heidfeld at least shown he has the ability.

  14. I agree with ukk, that Ferrari may be going downhill, this year and next will tell a lot.

    I think Kubica should stay with BMW, as the new boys on the block they may be better prepared to adapt to the coming changes.

  15. Nick – I think the only reasons Heidfeld is showing overtaking skill is because he’s been qualifying so poorly.

    Jean – BMW tweaking the car to suit Heidfeld? Don’t believe a word of it. The car’s dropping off the pace and Heidfeld’s qualifying performances in the last few races are nothing special.

    Sush – Yup, that’s what happened. Biggest traffic spike ever on F1 Fanatic – dwarfing even ‘Mosley gets a spanking‘ and ‘Hamilton crashes into Raikkonen

    Ferrari going downhill? I’m not sure. Technically they’re pretty much as strong as ever (I think there were signs even in 2006 they were starting to push reliability too far). I don’t necessarily think he should leave BMW, because they’ve hardly made a wrong move yet, but if Ferrari came knocking it would be hard to resist.

  16. I would not say Ferrari are going downhill at all. Their startegy is what is letting them down, not the car. They are still leading the championship at the moment (constructors), both drivers are within a shout of the WDC and Massa proved in hungary they are still as quick as mclaren.

  17. awesome, so you have become a diety in poland too Keith?, I mean come on, you was in a newspaper!

    regarding overtaking, even though he’s coming from way back the field you can’t ignore his skill in both overtaking and stopping others from overtaking him….. even last year Hamilton and Alonso had trouble overtaking in what was the second fastest car.

  18. I wrote this on Clive´s blog some weeks ago:

    In 2002 I was at Interlagos waiting for the final round of the Brazilian Formula Renault championship.

    There´s an invited driver named Robert CUBICA whom (with a car that he never saw before) was the devastated fast one at any time that the cars were on track: Free practices, classification and race.

    This guy took the pole and after the start took “S” of Senna and none could touch him until the end of the race. He finished 12 seconds ahead of the second man in a race with 17 laps.

    Obviously, we wanted to know a little bit more about him but we just discover that he was from Poland (what a strange thing at that moment!) and Formula Renault driver in Europe.

    I only heard about him again when he were at BMW as a test driver. But when a saw him driving as he did at his debut, I was not surprised.

    I think that I was privileged to see Robert at his first years and all guys around on that day talked about his sort of humble attitude with all journalists and other drivers…

    Yes, he is a championship-winning material and the right place to do this job is, I´m sure, BMW. Great resources, great management of drivers and I nice environment to increase his confidence!

  19. I can’t see Kubica in a Ferrari,just doesn’t seem right.I think his driving style and personality fit in at BMW very well. BMW is on the rise and I hope that Kubica will hang in there and grow with them.Doing so would make him the heart of the team and and gain him much loyalty from the rest of the crew.I am sure BMW will be looking to replace Heidfeld with another top driver to side along Kubica if he stays though.I hate to say that since Heidfeld is my favorite but, he is just not performing as well.

  20. Nick,

    You have to be joking me. Kubica’s pace has been darned impressive this year, particularly in races. I’m guessing you didn’t watch Monaco this year, when he was trading fast laps with Massa; or Montreal, when he put on barn-burner laps to get and keep the lead through pit cycles.

    As for his overtaking ability:

    Most of the clips are from last year, but still, he’s shown plenty of times to be a great overtaker.

  21. Just to make myself clear on the Ferrari going downhill: I meant the whole team and its results, not just the technical aspect, although I think this will follow too when the momentum is gone.
    Their race strategy lacks Ross and Michael, their team and development strategy lacks Jean and Rory. I judge this by the symptoms which are the same as ones they had before Schumacher – wrong decisions, reliability issues and inconsistent showing in every race.

    Btw, to get back to the Cubica topic: don’t see him fitting the culture at Ferrari too – Peter tells it well in his comment.

  22. I think that Kubica would be better served staying with the good Doctor than going to Ferrari.

    He is a deep thinker & planner, that one, methodical and measured in his approach. Not suited to the dramas, traditional chaos and histronics of the red team.

    S’funny, but I think the Pole will be better off to stick with the Germans (might be the first time in history anyone has ever said that ;) )

  23. No doubt Kubica is a rising star, and has as good a shot as any driver currently on the grid at a future championship. In terms of teams he should absolutley stay with BMW- they have the resources and skill to put together a championship package, and he has a chance to be the frontman for a whole new championship contender. He appears to fit wel with the team, and can be linked with BMW in the same fashion as Lewis is linked with McLaren.

  24. Well, kubica might be even the fastest f1 driver today but i would never recruit him in my team…and that because he is not fighting at all when racing on sunday. How many times have we seen drivers pass him like he ain’t even there…how many times he was stuck behind a slower car and never made a move to overtake…Take as it is gents, Kubica might be really fast but i doubt he will ever make a formula one champion…he ain’t got it.

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