Robert Kubica: The Challenger to The Formula One Title

James MortimerAnalyst IDecember 21, 2008

The first ever Polish racing driver made another auspicious start to the 2008 Formula One season—and may be the ultimate dark horse for the 2009 competition.

The BMW Sauber driver has emerged as a genuine title threat to the drivers of the big two “Ferrari and Mercedes”.  His appearance as a top level driver has been remarkable, considering that he was a test driver in 2006 and became a starting driver midway through the season.

Kubica is a man who has spent his entire life driving four wheels, and his pedigree is of a driver whom loves racing.  He began competing in the Polish Carting Championship at an early age, winning a collection of trophies and titles, until he moved to compete in the Italian Karting Championships. 

In 1998 Kubica became the first man outside of Italy to win the title, and was a strong competitor in the European Karting Championships.  The following year he was a constant figure in the German Karting season, as well as being the champion of the prestigious Monaco Kart Cup.  He was a contender in the CIK FIA World Carting championships, but played second fiddle to Danilo Rossi.

Starting his professional racing career in 2000, he joined Renault as a test driver.  He competed in the Formula Renault Championships, in both the Italian and Euro cup championships.  While he did not set the proverbial racing world on fire, 2002 saw him win four races and scoring a second place in the Italian Formula Renault 2000.

He moved to the Formula Three Euro Series, but made a near heroic debut at the Norisring driving with a severe arm injury to win his debut Formula Three race in front of over 100,000 spectators.  His season was cut short by this injury, but in 2004 he improved his season to finish seventh.  Toward the end of the year, he set two records in the Macau F3 Grand Prix, winning pole position, and then breaking the all time lap record before finishing second.

In 2005 he signed with the Epsilon Euskadi, and he had a breakthrough season in the World Series for Renault—winning four races before going through to take the championship.  He then competed again in the Macau F3 Grand Prix, and went on to become runner up for the second consecutive year.

It was on the heels of these results that he earned a test with the Renault Formula One team in Barcelona.  Shortly after he was signed by BMW Sauber as their official test driver—it was then midway through the 2006 season that he took over racing from former world champion Jacques Villeneuve. 

It was in his second race that he finished on the podium on the Italian Grand Prix which influenced BMW to state that he would finish the season as the teams second driver.

However, he was too ambitious, pushing his car too hard, leaving the track throughout races, and making poor decisions on his tyre choices.

In 2007 he started the season strongly, finishing in the top six in his first five races of the season.  At the Canadian Grand Prix, he was in a horrific accident, in which his car allegedly after rebounding of the first wall pulled in excess of 75G’s.  It was great testament for the technology currently in Formula One cars, as he walked away with nothing worse than a sprained ankle, and missed just one race with concussion. 

He returned in France and made two consecutive fourth place finishes here and at Silverstone.  Apart from a further retirement, he would not finish worse than ninth at any race in the season, and recorded seven top five finishes.  He would finish the season in sixth place.

Despite his BMW P86/8 Engine having a considerable disadvantage against the power and reliability of the Ferrari’s and Mercedes, the Polish driver has emerged as a genuine contender.  It will be a difficult task to break the Formula One domination of the Big two, but Kubica has a real chance—despite the team itself admitting it is far behind the Italian and British elite constructors.

His first place in the unpredictable Canadian Grand Prix was a deserved feather for the young pole—his maiden victory—and a fourth place finish in the season proper announced he will be a world power.

But a future world champion?


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.