Six races into the 2008 season BMW Sauber F1 Team driver Robert Kubica lies fourth in the drivers' world championship with 32 points to his tally. In a week he will return to where he escaped a horrendous accident a year ago.
You were one of the few drivers able to finish the Monaco Grand Prix without making any mistakes. Does this give you special satisfaction?
Robert Kubica: Not really. Okay, it was a difficult race, especially as there was a lot of water on the track, much more than we were expecting. The conditions were changing constantly, and this was also the case with regard to what tyres were best, therefore all the time we were having to adapt very quickly. I made some small mistakes – two or three times I thought I would end up in the barriers - but eventually I was able to control the car. It was, in fact, a very difficult race and I'm happy I adopted the right approach by being consistent and keeping up a good speed. With regard to the strategy, it was also a challenge, and I think we had a strong race. The outcome was I scored an important podium for the team and myself.
In a week Formula One returns to Canada where last year you escaped a horrendous accident. How do you cope with memories of the accident?
RK: I don't have to cope with anything. We go to Canada which is one of my favourite tracks. Of course everybody knows what happened in 2007, but I don't have to cope because it's already a year ago, and since then I have been driving a Formula One car without thinking about it. In Formula One and motorsport the risks are high, but I don't have any negative feelings about Canada. I am just going there as I go to any other race with the goal to score as many points as possible.
Did the accident change anything in your life?
What role does the mental part play in Formula One? Are you doing any special training?
RK: I think your mental state is important in every sport, but in Formula One it is particularly important. Just look at the last race. Even in dry conditions, Monaco is very demanding mentally, but this time it was even more difficult. We had to maintain concentration for two hours while driving between the barriers at the limit in ever changing conditions. Monaco is one of the easiest races with regard to physical preparation, but the hardest in regards to concentration. I don't do any mental training, but I'm trying to improve myself all the time, and I think that my mental level is good. The best preparation for me was all those races against good drivers when I was younger. I think we are all our own best mental trainers, and this is just by analysing and understanding our personal mistakes and approach.
You have had a fantastic season so far - why were you able to improve so much compared to last year?
RK: There were many factors which influenced my results in 2007. I don't think I have improved so much as a driver. But there are several outside factors that have improved a lot and these are both around and inside the car. All these factors have made my life easier with regard to setting up the car as I want it and having a better feeling for the car. The results this year show just how much I was struggling last year, and I think I was struggling much more than anyone outside realised. There are so many small factors that can influence your performance in Formula One. Last year was extremely disappointing for me, but I have learned from this, and I'm happy I have been able to improve the performance so much.
Do you consider yourself a championship contender this year?
RK: I don't think so, but of course anything can happen in Formula One. In the last two or three races especially we were not as competitive as we were at the beginning of the season, when we were in between the Ferraris and the McLarens. Recently, it has been more difficult for us to be up there. I expect Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton to fight for the championship, but if I see an opportunity, of course, I shall do my best. My approach is the same for all the races: I try to get the maximum out of the car and score the most points possible.
Montreal is a so-called "medium downforce" track. Do you think it should suit the BMW Sauber F1.08?
RK: Montreal is track which is completely different to Monaco, apart from the fact that it's a kind of street circuit where the grip level is improving massively from one session to the next. But the downforce level is much lower. We really have to see what it is like. We ran a relatively low downforce level in Turkey, where we were not so fast, but the team has developed a special medium downforce aero package for Montreal, which I hope will work and put us in a strong position.
What do you do in your spare time?
RK: I'm preparing for the next test or race. I work on my physical fitness, having done this particularly before the start of the season. But of course I also like to relax after a race to get the energy back before the next one. In addition, I like to play Poker, go Bowling or just do normal things like other people do