How far will driving in Formula One change in the 2009 season compared to 2008?
Robert Kubica: Aerodynamics will be reduced by around 40 or 50 percent, so the downforce level of the cars will be much lower. Taking this into account, Formula One will be influenced much more mechanically than aerodynamically. Nevertheless, aerodynamics will still play a big role. I expect quite big differences between the cars – especially at the beginning of the season. The return of slick tyres is one of the best things to happen in Formula One in the last five or six years. I guess that all drivers prefer slicks to grooved tyres and are pretty happy. Finally, the introduction of KERS is a major change. However, at the moment it is hard to predict how much it will affect driving.
What are the attributes/characteristics a good Formula One driver needs?
RK: First of all performance – you have to be quick. Additionally, understanding the technical side of the sport and being able to give good feedback to the engineers. Also, the driver's experience and the way he works with the team are important. There are many factors that make a good Formula One driver. However, if I have to choose one attribute, it is definitely performance.
Away from Formula One you like to play poker and snooker and go bowling. How do they compare with F1?
RK: They don't compare with Formula One at all. That's why I like them. In my job, I spend a lot of time with a lot of action, high speed and noise. By contrast, poker and bowling are quite steady. You don't have to put in too much effort. Especially when I am bowling I can completely switch off my brain and relax. During the winter break I took part in some tournaments. I have some friends who play at a very high level in Europe. I really enjoy playing with them.
How do you deal with set-backs?
RK: Losing is part of life. You have to take the positive aspects from winning and the positive aspects from losing. Set-backs can make you much stronger. Actually, you can profit much more from losing than from winning. The years in my life I learnt most were the years when I was not able to achieve my goals. During these times I became a lot stronger. Of course, I enjoy the times when everything is running smoothly. But life is always changing – sooner or later you will have to deal with difficulties again. It is important to conquer these difficulties in the right mood and to learn from them.
How important is talent in F1, and how much of the driver's art can be learnt?
Nick Heidfeld: Talent, to me, means good instincts, good vehicle control, enjoying what you're doing and, last but not least, being very fast. Those aren't things you can learn, and to that extent talent is the most important thing a driver needs. But you still have to put a lot of work in to get the best out of yourself. Data recording now covers pretty much everything and it can teach you a lot. But interpreting the data and drawing the right conclusions takes time and concentration.
What's the most important thing you learnt in 2008?
NH: That it pays to keep a cool head in any situation.
What difference do you expect the reintroduction of slicks to make?
NH: In previous years I've always said that slicks were the first change I would like to see. So I'm happy to see them come back. F1 cars belong on slicks. They look better too. I never liked the idea of making compromises at the one and only interface between the power and capabilities of a Formula One car and the track surface. I think slicks will help my driving style. Then again, Formula One cars, particularly with the forthcoming changes, are extremely complex, and so are tyres. So I can't really say anything for sure until we've got some experience under our belts with the F1.09 and have measured ourselves against the competition.
How far do you think you and the team can go in 2009?
NH: It's been impressive the way we achieved our goals in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Normally I would say we would be sure to do it again in 2009, and be in with a fighting chance of winning the title. But all the new rules for next season could potentially create a whole new ballgame. I very much hope, though, that we'll put in a strong performance.
Your own personal fleet of cars is growing. What models do you own?
NH: I've got a BMW M3, which I really enjoy driving, and an X5, which we can also pack the children and the dog into. The X5 is not just very spacious, it's also ideal in the Swiss mountains, where we often have snow. Patricia is still driving a MINI Cooper S. We've also got some classics, like a 1967 Beetle convertible. I'm extremely fond of that car. My mother has always driven a Beetle convertible, and still does. To my mind the whole sound, and the memories it brings back, make it the best convertible in the world. I also like the styling of the Ford Mustang – I own a 1965 fastback. There's a 1966 Fiat 500 in our garage as well.
No sports cars?
NH: Oh yes. But if I say I've got a Ferrari, a Porsche or a Lotus, people think I'm boasting. And that's not my thing.