Robert Kubica, the only Polish driver to have raced in Formula 1, was testing a 2012 car for the second time this year, at the French Paul Ricard Circuit.
While the June test in Valencia was meant to be a favour of Renault, this time the objective was to evaluate abilities of the Pole, whose career came to a sudden stop after a rally accident at the beginning of 2011. According to reports, Kubica completed 90 trouble-free laps and drove on different track configurations (including reversed) to simulate different types of corners.
The only journalist present at the circuit was Frédéric Ferret of French daily newspaper L’Equipe. He made an interview with the Polish driver, which was published in the Thursday’s issue. Thanks to their editorial team, we are able to provide the full interview below.
How does it feel to be an F1 driver [again]?
Quite good. Already in Valencia I was delighted with how my body and mind were responding and today I feel even better and more relaxed. I get a lot of confidence by knowing that I can drive this car quite well. It is encouraging. You can imagine how delighted I am to get back behind the wheel after six years. For quite some time it was my whole life.
How long did you think about the return?
It might seem strange, but it is hard to answer. During these six years I went through a lot of conditions and different emotions, so it is hard to gather it all. At first I was fighting for my life, then fought through the consequences of surgeries. It took a long time, but I got back on my feet. At first I was unable to go back to racing, so I went rallying. Going back to the question, I feel like inside me I never gave up and something was telling me that I will be back. It was a very distant objective, but not a closed chapter.
How did you end up here?
This winter I thought that I could return to circuit racing. Last year I needed to reflect on my career, so I raced at Spa-Francorchamps in the R.S. 01. This one-off gave me a lot of information and confidence. I understood that my level was good enough at least for a GT car.
It is not a secret that I tried to get into DTM, without much success, and similarly into LMP1. When I run out of options, the opportunity from Renault appeared, so I decided to grab it with both hands. I was not knocking on every door to get back into F1 before – I even got a few offers, but none of them were serious enough, which is why the Renault thing is different. Now I am here, talking about my second test. I will remember it as some of the best time of my life.
You first tested in Valencia, how did it went?
It might seem funny, but easier than I thought. It was not easy, but I expected something worse. I prepared myself well, so I could have the best possible chance to do well.
The question was how long would it take me to be back to F1 standards and the answer was surprising. I did not feel as if six years went passed, more like I was coming back from a winter break. Everything came back so easily, I felt at home in the car, even more than in a GT car which I was not used to driving.
What is different about Robert Kubica today and before the accident?
I am older [laughs], but that might not be an issue. Thanks to the time spent in rally, I am a more complete driver and I learned a lot, because rally is about constant adaptation.
During the two tests I realised that my senses were still sharp. I thought that my best times are long gone, but that’s not the case. My instincts are coming back naturally, which I did not expect. The mind is a powerful tool and works like a computer – once you install a programme, you just need to launch it and it is back.
How close are you to making a comeback?
Physicality is not an issue, the rest depends on the goals. I would not want to go back just for the sake of it, but to be competitive. I did not drive a current car yet, so I would not be able to race this weekend, it would require a couple of days of testing in a current car – that would increase my chances by 1000%.
So if you test a current car after the Hungarian Grand Prix…
I did not know such tests will take place [laughs]. We need to go forward step by step and not forget that I am coming from a long way back. The doubts about my physical ability were crushed after the two days of testing and I do not feat that I would not be able to perform, but that does not chance how long is still the road ahead.
Do you have any weaknesses from the accident?
I need use my left arm more, but that does not affect my driving. It gives me more of an issue in day-to-day life than in driving an F1 car. The only difference is that my left hand must take more loads, and while having a fit right arm would help, I can assure that it does not affect my abilities. I know what I am worth.
Next year Paul Ricard will host a F1 Grand Prix. Will we see you there?
That is why I am testing here [laughs]. To be honest, I am trying everything to help my chances, but I don’t know what will the future bring.
Renault F1’s boss Cyril Abiteboul told that the team has plans regarding the Hungaroring tests, which does not include Kubica at the moment, but they are subject to change.