Interview: Kubica on F1’s 2022 revolution, Ferrari’s power gains and his Le Mans debut

Interview

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Alfa Romeo test and reserve driver Robert Kubica told RaceFans about the team’s improvements and his experience of the new 18-inch tyres which will be introduced for the 2022 F1 season.

Kubica ran in first practice for Alfa Romeo at the Styrian Grand Prix, replacing Kimi Raikkonen.

“It was a bit of a difficult session, I would say, not a great feeling in the car [but] still nice to be back in an F1 car and although it was difficult, we managed to do what we were supposed to do,” he said, summarising the session.

“These cars are the same as last year, but they’re not the same, if you know what I mean.”

As well as testing for the team last year, Kubica was the first driver to get behind the wheel of their current car when it was launched in February. “Altogether our package is more competitive in the last year,” he explains, singling out the team’s much-improved Ferrari power unit.

Kubica was back in an F1 car last weekend
“The Maranello guys with the power unit have done a good step forward. Probably last year we were lacking quite a bit. So I think we are in a stronger position.”

The engine has made gains across the board, he says. “I think the driveability has been always a strong point of Ferrari’s power unit, it’s just that we have more power, more torque and generally more horsepower. It’s quite significant.”

As he has been working in a development role at Alfa Romeo, Kubica said that he has been following the 2022 regulation changes with interest.

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“It will be a big change, massive change not only from the perspective of fans, of viewers and the shape of the cars, but generally the pace will be different, hopefully.

Robert Kubica, Alfa Romeo, 18-inch tyre test, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
F1’s new 18-inch wheels were a “positive surprise”
“The main goal was to allow following the other cars closer. Hopefully this will be achieved. If this will not be achieved, then we have a big problem because in the end, racing drivers always want to have the most powerful car, the lightest and most downforce and next year it will be a big difference.

“Additionally, we have the 18-inch tyres which we have been testing not long ago in Barcelona. So there will be a lot of changes and it will be completely reset. And it will be a very exciting period for the teams but also for the drivers. Everyone will be looking forward [to it] and when you have such big regulation changes, you never know where you are, so it will be quite interesting.”

Pirelli’s 2021 tyres have proven controversial, after dramatic blowouts in Baku and graining issues at Paul Ricard for some teams. Kubica is one of the development drivers who tested at Barcelona last month using a modified chassis to help Pirelli and teams develop the new, bigger tyres.

Kubica said he was “quite positively surprised” by Pirelli’s new rubber for F1’s coming switch to 18-inch wheels after he tested them using a modified ‘mule car’ earlier this year.

“It’s a bit unfair to compare to the current car, using 13-inch [tyres], because in the end we used a kind of prototype car which was not built for 18-inch tyres, but generally the feeling was quite positive.”

Formula 1’s official tyre supplier faced criticism after two failures occured during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix earlier this month. Kubica said tyre development is “not as easy as it looks” given changes to F1 cars in recent years.

“I know there is a lot of complaints about the Pirelli tyres, but the fact is that with the current weight of F1 cars, it’s not as easy as it was 15 years ago when the cars were 150 kilos lighter.

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“I think there is still margin to improve, especially on some sample ones that I think were working very well and some others [had] things that hopefully Pirelli will be able to improve.

Robert Kubica, Alfa Romeo, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Kubica gave the C41 its first run
“It’s difficult because in the end, they have to deliver a product which works for every car and it’s impossible to make everyone happy. And also for them, with the regulation change it’s a big unknown but I had a positive feeling about the prototype 18-inch tyres.”

Kubica said the difference in terms of the feel of the tyres was surprisingly small using the adapted car.

“That was an even bigger surprise, because if I would [have] closed my eyes, probably I would not really notice when the car is riding normally on track.

“Over the kerbs, obviously there is a bigger effect but I think the Pirelli target, as a construction, was to achieve quite similar loads as on the 13-inch and you would expect the [18-inch] tyre probably to be stiffer, but it doesn’t really feel like that.

“On the flat surfaces, it’s really hard to notice the difference. Then, of course, in low speed there is a lot more inertia going and in the end of tyres are heavier, wheels are heavier. But when the car runs on smooth Tarmac, it’s quite similar.”

Although he continues to test Formula 1 cars, the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix seems destined to mark his final start in the world championship. His attention has now turned to sports car racing.

His 2022 plans are likely to involve more sports car races
Kubica intends to decide on his 2022 plans in the autumn, following his debut in the Le Mans 24 Hours, where he will compete in the LMP2 class for Belgian sportscar team WRT in a car shared with reigning Euroformula Open champion Yifei Ye and former Formula 2 racer Louis Deletraz.

“I will decide in September, probably what I want to do. For sure, the biggest event of my season will be Le Mans and first of all, I want to live this unique race experience and then we will see.”

If the Le Mans debut goes well, prototype sportscar racing’s new Hypercar and LMDh classes could be his next career destination.

“In the end, endurance racing might be a potential destination. I think there’s quite big interest, ahead of 2023 season, with the new cars, new chassis and some car manufacturers coming in. But still, it’s got quite a long way to go.”

2021 Styrian Grand Prix

Browse all 2021 Styrian Grand Prix articles

Author information

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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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7 comments on “Interview: Kubica on F1’s 2022 revolution, Ferrari’s power gains and his Le Mans debut”

  1. It would be so great if Kubica could get one more season in F1 in a competitive car, just to see what he can do. I have a feeling he would still fight for points positions at least. Probably won’t ever happen, but I think it would be great.

    1. I’d rather see a young and upcoming and competent driver in that competitive car. Besides, what would be great to seeing Kubica get slaughtered by his team mate a whole season again?

      1. You mean in qualys? That’s unlikely as George is an unique talent on Saturdays – I’d argue he could beat anyone during season length, including Lewis, but only on Saturdays (just now as I think he’ll improve his racing in couple if seasons)… Looking at Fernando this season, I’d say RK would need similar number of racing weekends to be on par with his teammate… But on the other hand it depends on the team and the team mate… It’s really hard to explain what’s going on with Ricciardo this season…

      2. Vasseur this week said that Kubica is a candidate for next years drive. After 7 years away, an limited preseason and inseason testing he struggled in a very bad car, but so are drivers like Ricciardo this year just by changing teams. Since Williams he has been racing again, DTM (in a weak privateer car), is constantly in the Alfa simulator, is racing in a Winning European lemans car. Plus he has good backing from Orlen. So he would be better prepared now. If Raikkonen retires, Kubica has a 50/50 chance for a drive next year. He is nearly 6 years younger than Kimi. I don’t expect Kubica to get the drive, but it could still happen. Alfa won’t want to lose that 20 million dollar Orlen contract that could be upped to 30 if Kubica is a race driver. Of course Ferrari academy drivers will bring money too from Ferrari, but their academy driver Giovinazzi would look great as number one driver against Kubica.

    2. That’s what I think too.

  2. To think of it, Alfa Romeo used 2019 mule car to test the 18-inch tyres in Barcelona and the other teams presumably did the same. Did Alpine really go into trouble of painting an old Renault in its new livery?

    1. Yes that’s how it works every year. Sometimes retired cars look weird in new colours.

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