x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Season to forget for Kubica

Pole's position unclear as five teams vie for his signature for next year. The BMW driver talks to Matt Majendie.

Robert Kubica of Poland will be driving in his last race for BMW Sauber in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
Robert Kubica of Poland will be driving in his last race for BMW Sauber in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

This weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will see Robert Kubica don his BMW Sauber overalls for the last time, bringing an end to his four years at the team. After BMW pulled the plug on its Formula One operation, Kubica also opted to head elsewhere despite a new buyer being found for the team.

A partnership that had promised so much failed to deliver on its final pledge of a championship challenge. BMW had set out for points in year one (2006), a podium in year two and a race win in year three, the last of which was achieved following Kubica's memorable Canadian Grand Prix victory in 2008. At the launch of this year's car in Valencia, Spain, the team boss Mario Theissen said the goal was to fight at the front of the field for the championship. But the team boast just 32 points and are seventh in the constructors' championship, while Kubica is 13th in the drivers' championship - two points ahead of teammate Nick Heidfeld.

The Pole, 24, who had been earmarked by BMW as their great championship hope this season, admitted his year had been dire. "You'd have to say it's a failure as we didn't deliver on what we promised to do," he said. "The goal was to fight for the championship but that's nowhere near happened. There was a lot of expectation for this season but it didn't work out. "We were confident we would be right up there but I realised early on that wouldn't be the case.

"Last year, there were problems with the car but problems I felt we could solve. This season, the problems were too big." The problem, in Kubica's mind, lies with Kers, the engine recovery system that BMW spent millions on trialling but have rarely used this season because of problems getting the required balance in the cars. Mention Kers to Kubica and he rolls his eyes, he is clearly not a fan of the technology.

"We spent a lot of time on Kers and perhaps we forgot about the other stuff we needed to do," he said. "Looking at how things turned out, Kers has a lot to answer for." The essentially wasted efforts on Kers are all the more galling for Kubica as the team opted to turn their focus away from a late push in 2008 to focus on their 2009 car. Kubica, with his Canada win and a string of podium finishes, was a one-time championship leader and was vying for the title before BMW opted to focus on this season.

He says he has finished talking about it. "It's over now, what can you do?" he said, but there is clearly disappointment in not achieving what he had hoped at BMW, the team that gave him his first shot at the sport. "I owe the team a lot because they gave me my first chance in F1, the opportunity to fight for podiums and my first win." His results with the team have made him arguably the most sought-after driver on the grid following Fernando Alonso's move to Ferrari. Renault, Toyota and Williams are known to have made offers for his services and Kubica revealed that he was in talks with two others.

"There were five options, four of which are very realistic," he said. Before Kubica signs a deal he has the small matter of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the only new race on this year's calendar. He has yet to see the Yas Marina circuit or even test it in a simulator and, like many of his rivals, will be going in blind this weekend. "I've seen some videos of it and it looks really interesting," he said.

"But I don't know what to expect until I started doing laps. It's exciting but I'm not nervous as there are always new circuits and it's just something you need to deal with. It's new for everybody so it's fine." In Kubica's mind, the racing this season has been overshadowed by the in-fighting within F1. First came the row over McLaren's "lying" at the Australian Grand Prix and the war of words between the Formula One Teams Association and the FIA president Max Mosley. That was followed by Crashgate and the end to Flavio Briatore's F1 tenure at Renault. Kubica believes the politics have been the worst ever. "There's been a lot of politics and it's not at all good for the sport and it's certainly not good for the fans," he said. "This year there have been a lot of things going on other than sport. Things like this have existed before but this must be one of the worst seasons for it."

A rallying obsessive, he has split loyalties. There have been rumours that the Pole might make the switch to the World Rally Championship, but he remains unsure. "I'd like to do rallying and I'm good in a rallying car but not a Sebastien Loeb [the six-time rally world champion]," he said. "And I don't think I can ever be a Loeb. But likewise Loeb could drive well in F1 but he'll never be a Kubica!"

For now, Kubica still has some unfinished business in F1, wherever he ends up for next season. @Email:mmajendie@thenational.ae