Robert Kubica is taking the positives from his racing return in Formula 1 after early damage in the Australian Grand Prix left him with a car handling so badly that he says he almost laughed.
More than eight years after the rally accident that left him with life-threatening injuries and reduced mobility in his right arm and hand, Sunday marked Kubica’s first F1 start since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Driving an uncompetitive Williams, the Pole suffered damage in contact with Pierre Gasly on the opening lap, and said the car was very tough to drive from that point on. He finished three laps down in 17th.
“As expected, it wasn’t the easiest one,” Kubica said. “I think I was the only one starting on the hard tires, so it was rather more of a test for us to get more data. I did a pretty good start, but unfortunately with hard tires I got a good launch and then I had a lot of wheelspin.
“Running into Turn 1 I took it very safe, I moved a lot to the inside over the kerb, and I once I thought ‘OK, this is over’, I went through the first corner and then from what I saw in-car, Gasly moved quite a lot to the right.
“I think there was contact with (Carlos) Sainz, but I saw it on the video that he moved a lot to the right and he damaged my front wing. I actually didn’t realize until 100 meters later I lost the whole wing. I thought I lost half of it.
“Then this wing caused other damage to the car, so we had to pit. The car was not feeling great, then additionally three laps into the race I lost one of the mirrors, which makes it even more difficult with blue flags. So it was quite difficult.
“Once I was in clear air I was told the pace was not bad – actually, it was good for the car with the state it was in, and I nearly started laughing because from the inside it felt very bad.”
Despite the damaged car, Kubica’s fastest lap was only half a second off teammate George Russell, and after a surprise at the start when he struggled to see the start lights because they were blocked by another car’s rear wing, he says there are positives to take from the weekend.
“Overall, I’m leaving Australia with definitely more experience, and reasonably happy,” he said. “Although, I would never think that I would say something like this having this pace and finishing so far behind, but that’s the reality. (In qualifying) I was disappointed with a few things, and I probably pretended and focused too much like I would be racing with people, a bit of an old-style approach.
“But we are in a different phase, we have to understand that it’s not easy and we have to use race weekends as a kind of test. I also went in the team’s direction. They suggested I start on the primes – on the hard tire – which was not filling me with confidence, because I never did a start with them, so there are a lot of things, but honestly I am quite happy. I think I did a reasonable job managing the tires, because the car was very difficult to drive with the damage.”