Robert Kubica, Williams, Silverstone, 2018

Kubica reveals he almost withdrew from fateful 2011 rally – and had 2012 Ferrari F1 deal

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Robert Kubica has revealed he nearly did not participate in the fateful 2011 rally in which he was seriously injured.

He took part in the Rally Andorra immediately after a Formula 1 test session in Valencia. However after the test Kubica had gone cool on the idea of entering.

“I woke up and I said ‘ah well, it was after the test, I have to fly to Milan, drive here, drive there, I don’t want to do it,” he told the official F1 website.

Kubica changed his mind after speaking to his car’s entrant. “It was strange circumstances that I was offered that rally because the team felt guilty that in rallies before I had so many failures with the car,” he said.

“I said I don’t want to go to this rally. And I called the guy and he was so happy that he organised everything that I didn’t tell him that he didn’t want go.”

Kubica, who was driving for Renault at the time, suffered injuries to his right arm, hand, shoulder and leg. A long, slow recuperation followed, and six years later he was finally able to drive an F1 car again.

He also revealed the event would have been his last, as he had signed to drive for Ferrari in 2012 alongside Fernando Alonso, in place of Felipe Massa.

“This was the last rally I was doing in my life, because I knew the team I was going to next year I was not allowed to rally,” said Kubica.

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He said joining Ferrari would have been the realisation of one of his career goals.

“Maybe because I raced in Italy maybe I see things like this,” he explained. “There are three goals. The first one is to enter Formula One. The second one is to become an established driver in Formula One, so you have good value, good reputation, which is more difficult than to enter. Third one is you win the world championship or you become a Ferrari driver.

“I haven’t won the world championship, in the end I haven’t become a Ferrari driver, but I was very close. That’s it.”

Kubica’s sole F1 win came in the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix with BMW. However although that victory put him in the lead of the championship, Kubica admitted he knew he was unlikely to be able to fight for the title.

“The moment we won the grand prix we knew we would continue but we would not develop anymore,” he said.

“The BMW team was run like a company. We had a target to win a race, and that’s it we won the race, we focused on 2009 there was KERS, BMW was so keen on KERS. It didn’t work at all, it never worked.”

Kubica tried to public urge the team to concentrate on its opportunity to win the championship in 2008.

“I couldn’t say ‘I’m worried that we will stop,’ he explained. “I said to the press conference ‘we have to keep pushing’. It means that you are worried that people will stop pushing.”

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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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  • 58 comments on “Kubica reveals he almost withdrew from fateful 2011 rally – and had 2012 Ferrari F1 deal”

    1. I listened to that podcast on my way in and almost choked on my coffee when he said that. Alonso and Kubica would have been a mighty line up for Ferrari.

      I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t listened to it yet to do so asap, Robert comes across incredibly well in that interview. Passionate, intelligent, humble, hardworking…if you don’t love and respect him already you will after listening to it.

      1. Any team would be lucky to have him as their driver! There’s still chance – Ferrari, HAAS, Sauber, McLaren…

        1. @petey84 it’s on the official F1 channel on youtube.

          I’m listening to it now. Robert’s views about racing and everything around it are eye openers… I wasn’t into reading all the news available back in those days as I am now, I think we have much more possibilities to know the inside story nowadays (as limited as they are), but to hear the whole thing from him, the inside story, with such confidence in what he says, it’s incredible.

          He needs to write a book or something. I’d buy it asap.

        2. @petey84 Your podcast provider of choice. I got it on the apple podcast app.

    2. Alonso vs. Kubica at Ferrari. Would have been mighty! I remember hearing as far back as 2010 that Ferrari was eyeing Kubica for that second Ferrari seat. Seemingly keeping Massa for the following season kind of confirmed to me that Ferrari actually had a plan, but it went wrong somewhere. Same with retaining Kimi for this long as quite unfortunately, the driver they had in line to be the heir to that seat passed away (But it looks like his godson might take his place now). I wonder how the 2012 championship would have panned out had Kubica been there instead of Massa. I remember reading an article somewhere that Webber was actually more helpful to Vettel’s championship than Massa was to Alonso’s that season as Webber took many points off Alonso, whilst Massa barely took any away from Vettel.

      1. I remember reading an article somewhere that Webber was actually more helpful to Vettel’s championship than Massa was to Alonso’s that season as Webber took many points off Alonso

        @mashiat – I might be going off topic, but that’s interesting. As I remember, Webber finished the 2012 season quite low down, a quick check shows he was nearly 100 points adrift of Alonso. But yes, there are 8 races where he finished ahead of Alonso, which supports the point you made, especially seeing as Massa was almost 60 points behind Webber himself, and Massa finished ahead of Vettel only thrice.

        1. @phylyp Indeed. I actually did some quick calculations, and had Webber simply not existed in 2012, then Vettel would have gained 9 points in the championship. Alonso, on the other hand, would have gained 19, thus handing him the title by 7 points. Moreover, Brazil 2012 is the one race where Massa finished ahead of Vettel (the other two were due to Vettel DNFs), but Alonso would actually gain no points at all, so had only Massa not existed, Vettel would have won the title by 5 points. Just goes to show that actually have a competitive teammate can be more beneficial than having a Palmer.

      2. @mashiat Just wow. It’s just so sad it never happened. Now on a somewhat related-topic you mentioned, could you help me understand why Bianchi was so highly rated by Ferrari? He was no Leclerc. Bianchi was never even close to winning a GP2 championship. He had a few solid races with Manor, one great one (Monaco). But that sounds more like Ericsson than Leclerc. Thoughts?

        1. @ajpennypacker I don’t believe he was ever looked at by Ferrari as being their next superstar, but rather a driver who would be a very capable number 2. Even in junior categories, he wasn’t hugely impressive, but he seemed solid. I believe that since the Kubica deal fell through, Ferrari have been looking to promote one of their own academy drivers. They were seriously considering promoting Perez (who was a junior Ferrari driver) for 2013, but Ferrari hesitated and McLaren signed him up instead. Obviously, I can’t be absolutely certain, but this is based on pretty strong rumors circulating around the paddock in 2012. After Perez, the next half-decent academy product they had was Bianchi. Both of them weren’t drivers who could be the next Alonso or Vettel, but they had the originals, so they just needed another Felipe Massa of 2006-2009. And now with Leclerc being a Ferrari young driver, you could see just how keen Ferrari was to secure him a deal in F1 as they want to get him into one of their cars as soon as they are done with Raikkonen.

        2. Warning! Long reply alert!

          @ajpennypacker Jules won the 2009 F3 Euro Series title (on the second attempt, because in the first season he was paired with Nico Hulkenberg, who basically conquered every series he attempted bar German F3 en route to F1). This was back when F3 Euro Series was the GP3 of its era.

          Jules was also an outsider for replacing Luca Badoer when the latter proved that he wasn’t up for 2009-spec F1 without getting some actual practise. Partly that was because his manager was Nicholas Todt, who had plenty of Ferrari connections (despite this being after his father Jean had left the team). However, his F3 record to that point would certainly have been a factor.

          Shortly afterwards, at the end of 2009, the Ferrari Driver Academy started. The Badoer affair was what made the team realise its necessity. Jules ended up being one of the first drivers it signed – and of the three who were signed at that moment, the one with the best record. The latter meant he was the natural choice to become the Ferrari reserve driver when Giancarlo Fisichella wasn’t available for that duty (due to his Ferrari sportscar career starting). From what I’ve heard, Jules did a very good job in that role, which directly led to his retaining that role in 2011 and 2012.

          Ferrari Development Academy is not the Red Bull scheme; it’s difficult to get in, but also more difficult to be dropped (albeit possible). It’s not clear how close Jules got to being dropped after two years of GP2 not going to plan – to the point where Perez, signed a little after the initial trio, leapfrogged him in the heirarchy (see @mashiat ‘s post for what happened to Checo thereafter – as far as I know his take on Sergio’s path is correct). It is certain that Jules’ propensity towards startline/early-race crashes made his GP2 results a lot lower than they would otherwise have been, and made his twin 3rd places in the title standings rather disappointing compared to his previous record.

          However, this statistic hides another that was probably more important for answering the question of what Ferrari saw in Jules. Essentially, Jules had figured out he was crashing because he put too much pressure on himself to take places at the first possible opportunity, which was no longer working. So he resolved to be a bit more cautious in battle and not pressure himself so much. The initial part of the plan was successful enough that Jules went from 15th in the championship shortly before Silverstone to 3rd by the end of the season. That’s quite a recovery for a second-half, and His less flexible and less well-positioned fellow “founding students” got dropped, as Ferrari broadened its approach to finding its next star (going from 3 drivers up to 6, with Pérez now its “lead driver”).

          Jules was Force India’s development driver in 2012 and also went into Formula Renault 3.5. It might seem hard to believe from the perspective of 2018, but that’s because the FIA’s superlicence points scheme was partially designed to crush FR 3.5 through “streamlining”… …and FR 3.5 had to be pretty good to be worth the bother of crushing. In the early part of the decade, there were some who argued it offered stronger competition than GP2. Jules would probably have won it had he not been turfed off by his rival Robin Frijns, and was treated accordingly in the paddock’s estimation. (If there hadn’t been an engine decision for 2014 riding on whether Bianchi or Sutil was chosen at Force India, then it is entirely plausible – though not certain – that Jules would have been in a Force India for 2013 and not a Marussia. Then a more definitive assessment of Jules’ ability might have been possible).

          Ferrari probably didn’t think they were seeing the next Senna, but might well have thought they were seeing the next Vettel – someone who not only has a lot of strengths but is willing to work at their weak points and has the attitude of a champion. Someone who could be a leader or a follower in the Ferrari set-up, depending on what the team needed at the time.

          I don’t think that changed at Marussia, since the ceiling the car had was low, Jules’ races were usually at or very near that ceiling, and the opportunities to do anything standout rare. Note that on no other occasion did any of the “2010 teams” ever score higher than 10th, under any circumstances. They were teams regularly 4% or 5% off the pace. Sauber might have been expected to be last, but nobody seriously expected them to be more than 3% off the pace, and that 1-2% makes a lot of difference in how high the ceiling is. As many backmarkers have found to their chagrin over the years, the further off the pace a car is, the more difficult it is for a talented driver to show their true skill level.

          Finally, I find the comment “He was no Leclerc” interesting. Since Bianchi was among the first of the Ferrari Driver Academy recruits, he was one of the drivers on whom the Ferrari approach was tested. This might not have had quite so much effect, except that Charles was eight years younger than Jules, was being mentored by him, and implementing as much as possible of what he was seeing Jules do into his own approach.

          Imagine having that good a view of what a successful path into and through F1 looked like, from such a young age. Imagine what that does to one’s level of skill.

          The development path Charles has followed – taking up pro-development notions in his karting career that at the time were associated with drivers several years older, the self-effacing, self-improving approach, staying close to the teams being driven for, doing every single series possible on the way in – these are all echoes of what Jules was doing, but starting earlier in the career and taken with more confidence because the exact same path had already been seen to work. It didn’t seem to make much difference when Charles joined the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2016, probably because he’d implemented half of it before getting the invite already. Perhaps it is not so surprising if a successful development path, done more emphatically, leads to an even more successful driver being created. While it might be possible to say that Bianchi is no Leclerc (I wouldn’t due to lack of definitive evidence in Jules’ case), but Leclerc would not be Leclerc without Bianchi having been Bianchi first.

          Ultimately, every driver selected by every driver development squad is chosen because, in some way, the development squad sees that driver as part of a better future. Maybe not the future Ferrari saw in Jules, but by demonstrating how the scheme could work, Jules helped create a positive future for Ferrari despite dying before he could race for the Scuderia. It will be exciting to see how Charles continues to build on the future for Ferrari.

          1. @alianora-la-canta – I have read articles here that were shorter than this comment, and I enjoyed this more! :-)

          2. Thank you for your comment

          3. Whatever said – Kubica is better than them all

    3. I will cry myself to sleep tonight

    4. Ferrari have had a really bad luck when it comes to drivers. At least some of it can be explained by things out of their hand. Massa’s accident in 2009, Kubica in 2011 and Bianchi in 2014.
      But none of their bad luck is anything like the horrible luck met by the 3 drivers. Really feel for them.

      1. Somebody keep Leclerc wrapped in bubble wrap.

      2. @Sumedh Bianchi’s accident wasn’t ‘entirely’ out of his hands, though. The two former, on the other hand, yes.

        1. @jerejj No disrespect to Bianchi’s memory. But Jules was nowhere near the same category as Leclerc. Maybe only in terms of hype. But in terms of results, Bianchi was never even close to winning a championship in any category in the prior 4 years to his ascendance to F1. I never actually understood the hype. With Manor, he had a couple of solid races and one spectacular one. Sounds more like Ercisson than Leclerc to me.

          1. He won the F3 Euro Series in 2009, which would be “in the prior 4 years to his ascendance to F1”.

        2. When the medic helicopter couldn’t fly it should have been red flaged right away, thats a rule isn’t it?

          1. @carlosmedrano It’s a rule, unless land transit can be shown to be possible within 20 minutes – which it patently was not for that track (the official estimate was “around 25 minutes” according to the FIA’s own press conference a week later).

            It wasn’t the only rule broken by the FIA, which is probably why they eventually settled with the Bianchis.

        3. @jerejj what do you mean? What Ferrari could’ve done?

          1. Forget it, read that wrong

      3. I’d add Schumacher in 99, that could have been the year of his first WDC for Ferrari

        1. Yes, remains to be seen if hakkinen would’ve performed better had his main rival been in the races, but seeing schumacher had more points than irvine when he got injured and he was lapping in general 1 sec quicker than irvine, would’ve really been possible to win in 99.

    5. Well, now it’s, of course, easy to point out that he indeed shouldn’t have taken part in that rally especially since he was about to withdraw from it. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    6. Well. That’s my day ruined.

    7. Him signing a race contract for Ferrari more than a season in advance sounds somewhat unlikely though. Perhaps more like a letter of intent or something.

      1. @patrickl I think it was a contract. The rumor was around the paddock back then. There were people constantly talking about it. Not that Kubica needed helpe since his performances spoke by themselves, but I am sure that Alonso’s friendship with Kubica would have helped things. Whatever the case, it’s a terrible shame for F1 that he had that accident. How much more exciting would it have been to have Kubica actually fighting for wins, than Alonso mopping the floor with Massa every race.

        1. @ajpennypacker Don’t agree on the Kubica performances speaking by themselves either. Heidfeld crushed him during the 4 seasons they were together.

          But then they hired Raikkonen back who was already known to be barely better than Massa. So the way Ferrari pick their #2 drivers does seem to work differently than when you look at a team with two equally supported drivers. Perhaps Alonso being more happy with Kubica playing second fiddle rather than a recalcitrant Massa makes sense in that light.

          Still I think it’s very early for a contract to be signed and I it’s odd that we never heard of this “signed contract” before.

          1. @patrickl Nick Heidfeld also beat Kimi Raikkonen in their one season together, but it was Raikkonen who got the nod from McLaren. But I hear you, Nick did score almost double the points as Kubica in one of their seasons together. Still, I think people judge Kubica by his form the last two seasons, not his worst. I don’t think anybody thinks Daniel Ricciardo is miles ahead of Vettel in terms of performance in spite of their season together.

            1. @ajpennypacker Well Raikkonen was a very promising rookie at the time while Heidfeld for some reason has always been underrated. Pretty much like Hulkenberg. Although the latter also has his height working against him.

              Of course Kubica will only refer to his best seasons 2008 and 2010 and not 2007 nor 2009.That’s a bit the thing with Kubica though. Not very consistent. For him lucky that people forget the bland performances or times when he just couldn’t be bothered to perform. While people will remember the few times when he performed “above expectations”. Similar to how Perez was considered a great driver worthy of a top team seat. Or Kobayashi. It’s like they are only present in say 25% of the races.

              For PR it’s better have the occasional stellar (albeit sometimes rather lucky) result instead of being a consistently good (ie boring) point scorer like Heidfeld, Hulkenberg, Button or even someone like Prost.

              Perhaps Ricciardo isn’t miles ahead of Vettel, but I would argue he demonstrated that he’s slightly faster and more consistent than Vettel. Much better race craft too. He pretty much consistently and comprehensively beat Vettel the whole season. That says more than comparing a scorecard.

              Sometimes it takes just a little bit extra and therefore I’m convinced Ricciardo would have taken the title last season in that Ferrari.

          2. Deja vu. Here you go again with Kubica bashing. If you forgot here is something I wrote you 7 months ago: Heidfeld deserves more credit that’s for sure but Kubica clearly wasn’t overrated be the F1 team bosses and fans. 2007-2009 was long ago and it’s hard to remember all the small details how their rivalry went. The facts are Heidfeld won 2 out of 3 on points (by a total of 9 more – 2007 +22, 2008 – 15 and 2009 +2), was also outqualified by Kubica during those 3 years. I have a lot respect and sympathy torwards “Quick Nick” but he was an expirenced F1 driver (6 seasons) when a rookie called Robert Kubica came and won the team over with his speed, consistency, technical feedback and improvement during his 3 year stint with BMW. – you can also look up for the part were I point out that their last full season together- 2009 which ended with a 2 point difference and only how close he was to beating Heidfeld again if it wasn’t for factor out of his control (Australia 2009 were he could have won or get P2 instead of DNF)…

            And about the Ferrari contract thing that you find it hard to believe that it didn’t come up earlier. In Poland we knew about pre-signed Ferrari deal about 6 months after Kubica’s crash. People knew in Poland or in Italy cause that’s were most inside news about Kubica come from.

            1. Totally agree. Some ppl like to judge just by scored points, forgetting about everything else. Kubica not consistant – LOL.

            2. @arrrang Kubica bashing? Just because I go against the hype?

              You’re the one looking at the score card. Kubica was slightly better at qualifying, but he just wasn’t very consistent in the races and Heidfeld finished ahead of him more often than not.

          3. Don’t agree on the Kubica performances speaking by themselves either. Heidfeld crushed him during the 4 seasons they were together.

            @patrickl

            In my opion, that is totally incorrect. Heidfeld may have scored more points but he was uninspiring/boring/mediocre whereas it shone through very clearly time and again from Kubica’s performances that here was a very special driver.

            1. @patrickl Well you can call it boring, but he outperformed Kubica more often than not. In the end that;s what counts.

              Kubica was great when he was feeling like it and everything suited him. If something was off he just seemed to give up and move backwards during the race.

              What’s the use of a driver that’s “special” in one out of 4 races and underperforms in the others?

              That’s exactly the basis on which Perez was hired by McLaren. A few great performances where he managed to steal the spotlight. While the rest of the season he sort of muddled along, but stayed unnoticed.

              When he was at McLaren they needed him to perform preferably every race and Perez simply couldn’t deliver. Also he had the same attitude issues that Kubica has.

      2. McLaren signed Juan Pablo Montoya 20 months before his first race for them, back in mid-2003. Alonso signed for McLaren (the first time) with an entire season between the signing date and the first race. Ferrari might not like that technique the way Ron Dennis did, but it is entirely possible.

    8. Ferrari REALLY should sign him for next year. He’d certainly give Vettel a stronger challenge than Kimi!

      1. Something Ferrari doesn’t need at all

        1. To be honest Ferrari could benefit from their second driver taking points of Vettels rivals.

    9. I find this hard to believe as Ferrari would never allow one of their F1 (race seat) contracted drivers to race in another series particularly one as dangerous as rally driving. This would not have been allowed to happen with the then Ferrari management (nor current one).

      1. listen to the interview before commenting please.

      2. He said exactly that. “…the team I was going to drive (the) next year, I was not allowed to rally.”

    10. He would have made a great Ferrari champion and could have spared us from all of the Alonso hype over the last 6 years.

    11. There’s common proverb from where I came from about something bad might happen:
      “If you hesitate, don’t do it.”

      1. Wise. Where are you from @ruliemaulana?

        1. @m-bagattini I’m from Jakarta, Indonesia. Lovely place if you didn’t mind living in the city with worst traffics in earth.

          1. @ruliemaulana who doesn’t LOVE traffic :D

            But I’ll definitely visit your country one day, maybe less crowded places than Jakarta. Hopefully soon, hopefully more than once.

            1. @m-bagattini if you on to night life experiences, Jakarta is still the best place. But, yes, Bali is a must.

            2. @ruliemaulana night life is not really for me, I’m not young anymore. Not that it was for me when I was younger, but now I have a good excuse.

              I’m more for tasting good food, drinking something and chill. Nature and tradition look amazing there.

            3. @m-bagattini Bali it is. You won’t disappoint. Just make sure you had more than 2 weeks to spend there.

    12. Awesome podcast… Internet is now filled with insightful long format interviews. Awesome job F1 is doing bringing this to us.

      It is hard to convey drivers insides during s 30s bite size staged press comments. For true fans there is a lot of value there.

      1. Yeah I’m loving it. Looking forward to hearing from everyone from drivers to team principals to engineers and everything in between.

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