A Pole on his way to Pole Position

Formula 1 star Robert Kubica suffered serious injuries after crashing in an Italian rally stage on the sixth of February.  After a seven hour operation, the medical experts think he will recover but uncertainty remains if Kubica will be able to race again because of severe damage to his right hand.

Kubica’s accident is a strange part of the appeal of motorsports. There still seems to be an image of heroic gladiators of Formula 1 and Rally ‘cheating death’, even though the spectacular days of drifting and sliding are behind us.

The F1 paddock, especially Monaco, is the playground for the rich and famous. The drivers are the playboys that all men want to be and all women wants to be with.

Robert Kubica is the complete opposite of this glamorous image, at least outside the car. His driving is undeniable spectacular and on the edge, but outside the cockpit he looks like a Polish Forest Gump. Also, talking doesn’t seem to be one of his strong points, as proven by this BBC interview:

Who is your best friend among the drivers?
Fernando Alonso

If I was in charge of Formula 1 I would…
I don’t know

Do you excel at any other sports?
I enjoy bowling – I’m not very good though. I also play poker, but I’m not that good either.

How would you like to be remembered as an F1 driver?
I don’t care.

What is your most embarrassing sporting moment?
I don’t remember any embarrassing moment in my career so far.

Who is the worst dressed Formula 1 driver?
I don’t know. I don’t care. Maybe me, maybe not.

Where is your favourite place to go on holiday?
I have never been to Finland but I would like to go there. I like quiet places where you are on your own. I think Finland offers places like this.

Apart from a house what is the most expensive thing that you own?
No comment.

What is your favourite item of clothing?
I like T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts.

What is your favourite music to drive to?
It depends on the situation and on my mood but 90% of my time I listen to the radio.

Tell us something about yourself that most F1 fans might not know
In F1 there are so many media so there is practically nothing about me you cannot find in the media.

So far we have a Polish dude who looks better with a helmet on, who likes to sit alone in a Finnish forest and loves bowling. Who says F1 drivers are boring? (Here’s the full BBC interview)

Back to the roots of this strange Pole. He was born in a country with no racing tradition but his father, a car salesman, bought him a car when Robert was just entering his teen years. Little Kubica spend the next months driving around plastic bottles.

At the age of twelve, Robert pretty much won everything in Polish karting, not exactly the pinnacle of motorsport. His dad decided to give his son a change with proper material and opponents. Kubica moved to Italy to become the first foreigner to win the Italian International Junior Karting.

Robert’s career through the junior ranks on his way to F1 was a remarkable one. His move to Formula three (an essential championship to be competitive in if you want to come anywhere near F1) was spectacular. His first race was delayed by a road accident which left him with a broken arm. At his delayed debut he won the race with a plastic brace and 18 titanium bolts in his arm.

Despite a lap record in the prestigious Macau F3 grand prix, he never reached his potential in F3. For most young drivers that would mean the end of their F1 dreams but Kobica got a change in the new World Series by Renault in which he became world champion in his first year in 2005. This earned him a test with the Renault F1 team. He immediately showed his pace and the whole F1 paddock was aware of Kubica’s talent and pace.

In 2007 Robert got his chance to race in F1 replacing Jacques Villeneuve at BMW Sauber. Kubica qualified ninth, beating his more experienced teammate Nick Heidfeld. He thendrove to an impressive seventh place in the race, but was disqualified for having an underweight car.

In his third race, the Italian Grand Prix, Kubica finished in third position, and became the first Polish driver to appear on a Formula One podium, as well as the first Polish driver to lead a Grand Prix.

Kubica performed well during the 2007 season, finishing consistently in point scoring positions. But he was most remembered that season because of his crash at the Canadian Grand Prix.

He escaped uninjured after his car made contact with Jarno Trulli’s Toyota and then hit a hump in the grass which lifted the car’s nose into the air. The car rolled and hit the wall on the outside of the hairpin. The speed measured when his car clipped the barrier was 300.13 km/h (186.49 mph) and Kubica’s body had been subjected to a peak G-force of 75 G (75 times your own body weight in plain English). But Robert being Robert claimed his first F1 victory a year later in the (you’ve guessed it) Canadian Gran Prix.

Kubica is a strange lad.  He is best friends with Fernando Alonso, one of the most hated and flamboyant drivers in the paddock. He loves the ‘thrill’ of bowling and his idea of a lazy Sunday afternoon is driving a rally car on country roads with an average speed of 90 Mp/h.

Even though he is considered ruthless on the track and a real threat for any title contender, none of his rivals dislike him. Maybe his fellow drivers acknowledge, like millions of race fans, that he is one of the last gladiators of a sport dominated by technology and money. Get well soon Robert!


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