Looking ahead to his first street race in more than eight years, Robert Kubica believes problems with the Williams team’s simulator have hindered his preparation for the unique demands of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Though Azerbaijan has been part of the F1 calendar for three years, the winding street circuit will be brand-new for Kubica, who is making his return to the sport this season after sustaining life-changing injuries to his right arm in a rally crash prior to the start of the 2011 season.
In fact the peculiar Baku City Circuit — which combines the sport’s longest flat-out section of track with its narrowest passage of corners — will be the Pole’s first street race since getting back behind the wheel, and to make matters doubly difficult, he’ll be the only driver on the grid without experience of the circuit.
“I would say if I was to point out one thing which is making things more unknown, it’s more I haven’t driven for very long on a street circuit,” Kubica said, evaluating his double-edged lack of experience. “Definitely something I have to go through initial laps and see how is the feeling.”
The 34-year-old has had limited opportunity to overcome his experience gap due to issues encountered in the Williams simulator, a vital driver reconnaissance tool, which have left his preparations underdone.
“I did a couple of laps … but unfortunately our track on the simulator is not representative to what is reality,” he lamented. “[It’s] not up to the, let’s say, level it should be. It will be my first approach tomorrow.”
Still, Kubica is confident he will cast aside his problems when the time comes to finally take to the circuit and instead allow his more than four years of F1 experience to guide him through the claustrophobic confines of the Azeri capital.
“It has always been a special feeling to drive close to the walls,” he said. “I will expect a higher, let’s say, level of alert in the beginning of the session, which is normal, especially when you join a street circuit for the first time.
“On these types of tracks you need confidence and to build it up step by step. Normally if you start searching for it, it’s not the right way. This I know from the past.
“Still, quite a narrow section of the track, some tricky braking and the cars are much wider than in the past, so it’s a different Formula 1 — a bit of combination of everything, just go through it and discover.”
But given his team’s struggles with the Williams FW42, the Pole is of limited optimism that he’ll be racing any closer to the midfield, even at a circuit renowned for its unpredictability.
“Baku showed in the past that everything happened,” he said. “So from one point, yes, everything can happen here.
“From the other, probably from what we have seen in the first three races, I would say it would be very difficult or nearly impossible.”