Robert Kubica, Williams, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Williams sponsor Orlen wants answers over Kubica’s Russian GP withdrawal

2019 Russian Grand Prix

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Williams sponsor PKN Orlen wants answers from the team over why it pulled Robert Kubica’s car out of Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

The team said following the race it parked Kubica’s car on the 29th lap of the 53-lap race in order to conserve parts for future races. “We opted to retire Robert soon afterwards in order to conserve parts ahead of the intense flyaway races which end the season,” said senior race engineer Dave Robson.

In a statement released to the media, the Polish petrochemicals company said it has “officially asked the Rokit Williams Racing team for clarification” on why Kubica was pulled out of the race.

A Williams spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.

Williams suffered a shortage of parts during the opening races of the season having made a late start to testing due to delays completing its first FW42 chassis. Kubica announced during the Singapore Grand Prix he will leave Williams at the end of the year.

Radio messages from Kubica’s retirement

Kubica was told to retire the car in the pits immediately after his team mate George Russell crashed out on lap 28.

To Kubica:Safety Car, Safety Car. Box, box.
To Kubica:Copy.
To Kubica:OK Robert we are going to have to retire the car.
To Kubica:We are retiring the car so just stop in the box, engine off.
Kubica:Oh. OK.
Kubica:Why is this?
To Kubica:Talk afterwards.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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44 comments on “Williams sponsor Orlen wants answers over Kubica’s Russian GP withdrawal”

  1. The sponsors naturally want to see the cars on track so the cameras can pick up and showcase the brand. Claire’s rash action may have violated their commercial agreements . How is she still running this team after it’s dismal results ? Nepotism rarely works.

    1. I think we should rather see this in the scope of (almost certainly) ongoing negotiations on terminating the sponsorship in line with Kubica leaving the team and how much money they still have to pay or not @bukester.

      In William’s case running far behind achieving nothing AND having a slight worry about breaks (or even about whether the wheel is fitted sufficiently?- depending on the exact cause of Russels’ accident) is a good reason to stop the car. Especially when we know the team is tight on parts.

      1. Yep, that’s most likely the case @bascb

      2. I think we should rather see this in the scope of (almost certainly) ongoing negotiations on terminating the sponsorship in line with Kubica leaving the team and how much money they still have to pay or not

        Very good point, @bascb

        1. @phylyp, furthermore, there may well be external political pressure on Orlen to also act tough given the Polish press have suggested there is a strong political element in the sponsorship deal that Kubica has.

          In early 2018, recordings emerged of the current Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, which he had made before taking office at the end of 2017. In those recordings, he made some rather insulting comments about Kubica – including commenting how relieved he was that he injured himself, as it meant the bank he was working at could get out of their sponsorship deal with him – which, amidst other comments he made about the average Polish citizen, caused a huge backlash against Morawiecki and his party.

          Now, Orlen offered to sponsor Kubica pretty quickly after those recording emerged, with Morawiecki present in person to announce the deal and being present in quite a few of the publicity shots with Kubica. Given the tone of the comments he made, where he was keen to stress there were “no hard feelings” with Kubica, many suggested that Morawiecki had leant heavily on Orlen to sponsor Kubica to try and reduce the damage done by his earlier comments and to make him more popular with the public by supporting a popular figure.

          Given the way in which Kubica’s return to F1 has played out, I wouldn’t be surprised if Morawiecki is putting pressure on Orlen to take a hard line on Kubica’s behalf because that is likely to be viewed more favourably by the Polish media.

          1. Thanks anon. I recall it was you who previously pointed out the role of the Polish PM in Kubica’s sponsorship.

            Thank you for the added context that he might be playing hardball to please the domestic media.

          2. Anon should be on the staff around here. Thanks for your continued insight and comments!

          3. This is misleading information. Let’s add some important facts:
            1) Polish PM said that in 2013 when he was PRESIDENT OF WBK – SANTANDER BANK in Poland.
            2) Kubica already had signed contract with Ferrari – which as we know was sponsored by? SANTANDER! and SANTANDER POLAND had to pay 40 millions $ to FERRARI.
            3) This is why Morawiecki said which is recorded: “Ohh dear… this is very good that Kubica broke arm, because I don’t have to pay 40 millions”. – over.
            4) Now Orlen has increased income because of F1 and Kubica which is clearly presented in reports. So, you could say it is political but on other hand, if you follow the money – it is win win situation. Orlen doesn’t pay for Kubica because he earns the money for them.
            5) Way anon is writing is political – against our current government and PM because in few days we have elections in Poland.

    2. @bukester I don’t really know what type of corporate Williams is, but: if it’s owned or controlled by the family, it is their right to keep Claire as deputy director. If Frank or the family isn’t controlling the company, it’s up to the board to decide. So my feeling is that Sir Frank still has control and I’m fine if he decides to stay in charge and keep Claire as deputy, despite the results. The heritage is much more important to me.

      1. Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited (the holder of the F1 entry) is an English private limited company which (from companies house records) appears to be wholly owned by Williams Grand Prix Holdings plc which is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. I think Frank is still the largest single shareholder.

      2. Certainly they are well within their right to keep Williams leadership.

        They are just performing poorly. They are probably the only current privateer teams. Alongside Haas maybe? But Haas has other businesses beside Motorsport.

        1. @jureo Racing Point?

          1. Privateer in my eyes being an owner lead team.

      3. The heritage is much more important to me

        In a “sport” that you are as good as the last race result, heritage and 5 dollars buy you a tall cup of caramel machiatto at Starbucks

    3. @bukester I am sick and tired of seeing misogynistic viewpoints about Clare Williams! She is not the technical team or the design team or the engineering team, she is the person designated by Sir Frank Williams to sit as a figurehead and try to lead the team forwards. Try to wake up to the fact that this is the 21st Century and that women have a right to be doing whatever job and in whatever position they want and don’t need people like you taking jealous pot shots at them!

      1. But she is rubbish at it?

        1. This is hilarious!!! Made me crack up

        2. and of course you can do better?

      2. @maddme
        I’m curious to hear what misogynistic viewpoints Bukester made; can you clarify?

      3. What misogynistic viewpoints?

        Team has 1 point. They are slow.

        In March 2013 (that season was terrible aswell 9th), she was appointed deputy team principal of the Williams F1 racing team.

        Then their WCC results went downhill. 2014 3rd, 2015 3rd, 2016 5th, 2017 5th, 2018 10th, 2019 10th.

        As Mercedes engine lost it’s competitive edge their performance dwindled.

        What misogynistic viewpoints?

        But offcorse Sauber had legacy leadership that also was failing, McLaren had same issues, etc.

        Williams is not failing because Claire is a woman. Williams is failing because as a team they are not currently good enough to be better than last.

        1. If the comments weren’t misogynistic, why is Claire the one criticized and not sir frank? (Or, god forbid… the technical director?, lol)

          She’s a deputy team principle, if you don’t like it, take it up with sir frank.

      4. @maddme I agree… and considering sir frank is still technically team principle, the fact that NOBODY talks down on sir frank… you really can’t deny the misogyny roots.

        People should be blaming sir frank. I have tons of respect for him, but he needs to let go of the team principle title. He is either too… (matured?) to lead a team properly, or he ISNT leading the team, by rather leaving it to Claire. Which, If that’s the case, give her the respect that goes along with the team principle title.

        I’m not gonna dignify bukesters comment with a response. He might as well be talking about Obama being a Muslim, if you euros follow the US analogy.

    4. Nepotism rarely works? Really, @bukester? Any more throw away comments you’d like to fling in our direction?

    5. Brilliant move by Orlen (whoever they are) and their marketing team. Now, a few people know they are a sponsor of the Williams F1 team and they even exist. This complaint probably gave them more publicity than the whole 2019 season.
      Brilliant.

    6. It’s been accepted for a while now that women can be more ineffective in their jobs than men can.

  2. Isn’t it true that sponsorships are often structured as a loan from the sponsor to the team, and that the repayments are waived after each race?

    If so, I wonder what the fine print is in terms of presence at a race – is it starting a race, completing a race (with exceptions for retirements due to failures/accidents), etc.

    One would think Williams would have had this covered off before they retired Kubica, but then again, they’re the same team who sent Kubica early into the pitlane and earned him a penalty because they “forgot” that the race now starts 10 minutes after the hour.

    1. @phylyp I’ve heard this ‘loan’ transaction system many times, and never really understood it. I know all sponsors contracts are different, but it would be nice to hear what the average one looks like, and like others have stated it looks like Orlen are ‘playing tough’ for whatever reason. (I can’t see Petronas asking the same if Lewis was to retire). Obviously at the bottom of the grid things are different (Rich Energy), there must be some kind of standard formula for sponsorship contracts, or perhaps not.

      1. @bernasaurus – yeah, I agree, and it would be interesting if Dieter can cover off in one of his inboxes how sponsorships work in F1/motorsport.

  3. What are chances of Latifi getting his super licence before the F2 season ends?

    1. no chances at all :)

    2. Close to zero.

  4. Williams are a joke and their treatment of Kubica this year has lost them any good will I once had towards them.

    1. How have they treated Kubica? They speak of him in glowing terms every single time they are asked about him. He chose to not continue with them for 2020, they didn’t sack him despite him being patently slower than Russell. The only thing they’ve done wrong by him is design a bad car…which I’m certain they didn’t do just to spite him.

      1. They can both be true at the same time. They speak glowingly of him … and then retire his working car to save parts for later.

  5. After watching the interviews and programs Claire has done over the last few years I see her as a wonderfully strong person. But – always a but – but one that is battling against the odds in her own perception and what she perceives others think.

    I’m sorry but she needs to step aside and let someone with true confidence, strictness and happiness that a good leader can bring to the team.

    Passion, love and dedication does not make a car or win races alone.

  6. I’m amazed by this “preserving parts” line. It looked to me like Russel had a brake failure and they retired Kubica to be safe as he wasn’t going to score points anyway.

    I doubt Kubica would have been retired if Russell didn’t have his issue….

  7. I suppose it’s a good thing Williams is a respected high-tech company otherwise they probably would not have been able to continue in F1. Although I suppose even that has its limits. I think it’s time to move Claire to other duties within the company. Many team principals/coaches/managers are routinely fired or reassigned for less serious transgressions to the principle of “winning”.

    1. Deputy team principle. Direct your hate at sir frank.

  8. Kubica said that they weren’t sure if his car was safe after Russel’s suddenly drove itself into the wall.

    How on earth is that not a simple and valid reason?

    1. @f1osaurus – The only explanation I can think of is that the image of a car spearing itself into a wall brings back painful thoughts for Williams but they don’t want to talk about that so they made up a story about spare parts…..

      Retiring Kubica was the right decision at the time however if we believe their claim, it makes them look like a joke and opens them up to all sorts of claims from sponsors.

  9. If it was about preserving parts they’d pull one car from the race every race. If after race 16 they have a shortage of parts they need to leave the sport now.

  10. We are analyzing all races, second by second for both: Russel and Kubica, from the beginning of season. Our conclusions are:
    – They have no same/equal cars from the beginning of season. Gap is not caused by skills.
    – If you take into consideration that:
    a) Kubica performance is much more better on circuits that need more skills than car,
    b) on the first lap in most cases Kubica is overtaking,
    c) Toto doesn’t want Russel in Mercedes in next 3 years,
    d) Kubica is only one driver who does’t improve after practice sessions – because he is testing parts for Russel
    e) Kubica has 1 point because he didn’t make mistake, but Russel did
    f) Whenever Kubica was able to overtake Russel, his engineer was applying stupid “strategy”

    You will finally understand what is happening. You are living in delusion that your super golden boy will be champion of the world, but sad truth and desperate covering it by british propaganda and Williams is not enough. Specialists know the truth. Kubica is faster than Russel who is not second Hamilton. Toto knows that. Some poor guy claimed even that Russel is faster than Kubica in his prime…. british propaganda amaze me. Truth is. Old Kubica who has to save parts and literally can not risk any damage, with one hand is faster than Russel. Deal with it.

    1. British propaganda? I’ve heard a few people say Russell is doing well in his first season but I’ve not heard anyone suggest he’s the next Hamilton! If you asked your average person in Britain who George Russell is, they wouldn’t have a clue.

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