Autoweek goes 1-on-1 with Williams F1 driver Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica is nine races into his F1 comeback after last racing in the series in 2010.

Robert Kubica’s return to Formula 1 has quickly descended from a dream into a disappointment. Racing in an uncompetitive Williams at the back of the field, the 34-year-old racing veteran from Poland could be forgiven for getting discouraged, but ahead of the British Grand Prix, the one-time race winner took time to speak exclusively with Autoweek about his return to the sport.

Autoweek: The season has obviously not gone as you would have liked, but how has the reality of your return matched up to the expectations that you had?

Robert Kubica: Joining Formula 1 after a long break, realistically I knew it would not be easy. It has been a big challenge to come back and I knew it would be a very big challenge to race again in Formula 1. On the other hand, also I was with the team (in a reserve role) last year. Coming after a difficult season last year, we hoped it would be much better this year than last year, but you knew that the expectations you might have, you will have to review.

There were new regulations this year in F1, so the cars might be — or you were hoping they would be — mixed, but it hasn’t been like this. So, we have struggled probably even more than last year, which is definitely complicated and, I would say, more difficult than expected.

It’s a challenge that I was aware of and looking forward to, but I have to admit that no one in the team was expecting such difficulties.

Robert Kubica qualified 17th and finished 20th in his last time out for Williams in Austria.

AW: Are you still able to enjoy racing?

RK: In the end, Formula 1 is a tough sport. If you were racing with the others it would be more enjoyable but still, I have to remember where I was 12 months ago, 24 months ago and it’s still better than being at home watching the races on television.

On the other hand, I would say that probably I would enjoy it more if I had a chance to race with the others. Sometimes the races are very painful with the blue flags and managing traffic. It’s not an easy situation but it’s still enjoyable, although probably I would enjoy it more if we were more competitive.

AW: How have you found getting used to the blue flags (ones that demand a driver move over to allow faster cars by) because, during your first stint in F1, you were the one benefiting from them.

RK: It is something that unfortunately I’m experiencing for the first time. In the past, I think I was never lapped. It’s not an enjoyable experience and it’s an experience where unfortunately, it complicates your race even more because you don’t want to disturb the top cars, the guys who are fighting for the top position, but on the other hand you have to make it as smooth as possible for them but as smooth as possible for you.

The consequences might be not only that you are losing lap time but also you are losing tire temperature, picking up marbles so, often it’s a combination of being as polite as possible but also as smooth as possible.

Being on the other side when I was lapping the cars, so I know it can be painful for both drivers – the one who is doing the lapping and the one who is being lapped.”

Robert Kubica, right, has been a mentor of sorts to rookie teammate George Russell, left, this season for Williams.

AW: You’ve got F1 rookie driver George Russell alongside you this year. A new driver, new teammate, how has he been to work with as a teammate?

RK: I think he’s very experienced for his age, he knows a lot. The approach of the new generation of drivers is a bit different to what we had. They have a lot more opportunities to learn the sport before they become F1 drivers, being in the junior programs, being involved with the top teams, in George’s case Mercedes.

He has a lot of knowledge for his age and he is very talented. He has shown great pace in the past, in junior series. This year definitely, is not an easy situation for him either. He is capable of really delivering and, although the car is not performing where we would like to, he can still show all his great abilities and some day he will get the car he deserves.

Robert Kubica is still a popular figure on the F1 grid.

AW: Where do you see yourself a couple of years down the line? Do you see yourself remaining with Williams, have you been talking to anyone else?

RK: I think it’s a little bit early to talk about that still, but it’s certainly something that we’ll have to address sooner or later. I will have to see if there is an opportunity for me to stay in Formula 1, what kind of opportunities.

If I realize I can be in Formula 1 then I will decide. If not, I will have to wait and see what is possible for me where I could race. But realistically speaking, it is important to be realistic to what is possible and if it’s something that will give you opportunities or not.

It’s just a bit too early.

AW: If you were to stay with Williams, would you need certain guarantees on performance that you wouldn’t be where you are this year, that there would be a step forward?

RK: “In this sport you can never have a guarantee. Williams has been in the sport for a long time. They’ve had some up and downs. It’s a team which has a great history but in reality, it’s a team which has been struggling for the last two years. In the past they have shown that they can deliver, so you will never ask for a guarantee.

I know from the past that there is no guarantee and Formula 1 is a very dynamic sport. A lot of things happen very quick also from a technical point of view so the situation might turn upside down quicker than expected.

For sure, you need to work extremely hard and I think in Williams, no one is happy about the current state, the current situation. A lot of people are putting a lot of effort in to improve it, to reshuffle things, but the time is running.

In the end, only time will tell the answer.

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