Arguments have been raging for years about who is the best driver currently competing in Formula One.
“Schumacher’s records will never be beaten!”, “Vettel will be without competition in a few years time”, “What? Hamilton and Alonso have got the title sewn up for the next decade!”
This type of conversation will be all too familiar for the typical Formula One fan, armchair or petrol head. However, let’s deviate away from the superstar names with the superstar personalities and concentrate on another man - Robert Kubica. Here stands a man who does not command attention, who does not exhibit superstar looks, and is frankly not very marketable to the masses. Yet, he is in possession of an abundance of talent.
Robert Kubica first came to the fore with a Monza podium finish in what turned out to be Michael Schumacher’s final Italian Grand Prix, after having been promoted to a BMW race seat in place of the often lacklustre Jacques Villeneuve. Impressive, to say the least, yet his primitive first steps in Formula One were also backed up by a very successful career in the junior formulae:
- The first foreign driver to win an Italian junior karting title
- Double Monaco kart cup winner
- Winning his first Euro F3 race - with a broken arm no less!
- Pole position and fastest lap at the Macau GP in 2004
One must acknowledge that Mr. Kubica indeed showed promise, so much so that he was incorporated into the Renault driver development programme after only two years of single seater racing in 2002. So, what is the point in questioning him after only 3 full years in the top flight? In 2008, Kubica won his maiden grand prix (with thanks to the brake pedal of Lewis Hamilton and the generosity of Herr Theissen & Heidfeld), although it was only a matter of time before the Pole grabbed his first victory, having taken a surprise pole position in Bahrain that same year. Things were looking up.
We now find ourselves at the rear end of 2009. In two of the three years that Kubica has raced in Formula One, he has been beaten by his German team mate Nick Heidfeld - who isn’t renowned for setting the world alight with his pace. Take into consideration the career progression of all the top drivers competing today;
Fernando Alonso - Minardi, Renault, Mclaren, Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen - Sauber, Mclaren, Ferrari
Felipe Massa - Sauber, Ferrari
Lewis Hamilton - Mclaren
Sebastian Vettel - BMW (test), Toro Rosso, Red Bull, Mercedes?
Robert Kubica - BMW, Renault.
Whether by choice or not, Kubica has found himself in a team that hasn’t covered itself in glory on or off the track in recent years (with the anomaly of Team Alonso’s success in 2005 and 2006). Every other driver who is considered title-winning material along with Kubica, has seen a general upward trend in their progression. Not so the Krakow native. There is no doubting that Robert Kubica has talent, and is capable of winning Grand Prix. However, being beaten more than once by a seasoned yet conservative teammate, and finding himself in a team that surely cannot claim to be championship contenders based on the previous few years is not the best defence against the accusation that you’re not a superstar in the making. We must wait to see what the French marque are capable of producing next year however.
Kubica is young, and has a lot of time on his side, let us hope that he finds himself back on the championship winning radar in years to come instead of sliding into Jean Alesi style obscurity
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