Robert Kubica has described the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship campaign as 'a good warm-up' ahead of what he intends to be a concerted title assault in 2009 – a year in which he knows BMW-Sauber needs to be 'better than the others'.
The Pole – the first of his countrymen to break into the top flight when he did so back in 2006 – staked his claim as a future world champion when he drove BMW to its breakthrough grand prix victory in Montreal last June, leading home team-mate Nick Heidfeld in a convincing one-two for the Bavarian outfit.
While there were no further triumphs over the balance of the season, Kubica is hoping there will be in 2009 – though he acknowledges the dramatic upheaval in the sport's rules in the name of cost-cutting, generating more overtaking and spicing up the spectacle means no one will really know just how the teams will shape up until they all hit the track together in anger for the first time in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne at the end of March.
“It's such a big regulation change,” the 24-year-old explained, in an interview with Crash.net Radio
, “so it's quite a big unknown as to where we will be, how our car will be and how the regulations will affect our development and way of building the new F1.09. It's very, very difficult to judge, and we'll have to still wait a couple of tests to have a clear idea and a bigger vision of what we will be able to do this season.
“We already have some data, because we were running in November and December with a 'B' car – something in-between a 2008 and 2009-spec car – but I think more-or-less every team was trying to adapt its 2008 car to 2009 spec. Our car I think was more visible, because already in the first test we introduced the new front and rear wings, but Williams had them as well and Honda was running some of the 2009-spec elements, and some teams were trying to simulate with 2008 wings the 2009 rules.
“It was for sure positive to try those things and we collected some data, but the 2009 car is quite a bit different so we have to see how it will perform. I think in terms of driving there will be quite a big difference, especially because of the reduction in downforce, which makes the car feel different aerodynamically.
“Additionally there's KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems), which I would say is a big unknown for everybody, and of course the slick tyres will deliver more grip than the grooved tyres, which is positive, but still we have to see and discover it all slowly. It will help massively if we are heading in the right direction straightaway because of the reduction in testing after the first grand prix in Melbourne. It's a big challenge.”
That much is no understatement, and another area the man from Kraków is unsure about is the safety of the new front wings, which are wider than the actual car. That, he suggests, could cause some issues when the lights go out, with the entire field bunching up close together into the first turn as the drivers all jostle frantically for position.
“The dimensions of the front wings are quite big,” he reasoned, “so we might see a bit more action where the driver is coming back to the pit-lane without his front wing… Of course, I will try to do my best so this doesn't happen to me, but especially in the first corner of a grand prix in racing conditions it's wheel-to-wheel and the front wing is actually wider than the front wheels, so that will be quite challenging.”