Robert Kubica has spoken warmly of his new employer in F1 2010 at the launch of the Renault R30 in Valencia, reflecting on his 'long history' with the French manufacturer, insisting that he never had any real doubts that the team would be on the grid this year, revealing his optimism for the future and evoking a 'special connection' with the Enstone-based outfit.
Kubica began his single-seater career in Formula Renault in Italy back in 2001, and was soon appointed a member of the Renault Driver Development (RDD) programme. Four years later, the Pole triumphed in the World Series by Renault with Spanish concern Epsilon Euskadi, as a prize for which he was awarded a test outing in that season's F1 World Championship-winning R25, his first experience of grand prix machinery. Now, just over four years later again, he has returned 'home'.
“I'm very happy to be here,” the 25-year-old remarked of what is only his second team since entering the top flight midway through 2006. “I do have a long history with Renault – where I started my journey in Formula 1. Although my career took a different direction with BMW, it's great to be back with Renault where I have a lot of good memories. I already know a lot of the people here, and over the winter I have seen how motivated everybody is to improve our competitiveness and start winning races again.
“I'm still relatively new to Formula 1, and I'm looking forward to meeting new people and learning how a different team operates. I feel that I have a special connection with this team, and I like the attitude that Renault takes towards racing. The atmosphere here is very friendly and open, and the team knows what it takes to win, so I feel very comfortable in this environment.
“Obviously the R30 is bigger than the R29 because the refuelling ban means we need a bigger fuel cell, which has had an impact on the design of the car. I don't think [the ban] will have a major impact on the racing, but it will certainly change the behaviour of the car. For example, we can expect to see a huge difference between qualifying lap times and the lap times at the start of the race.
“When the car is full of fuel it will probably add 150kg of weight, and that will have a huge effect on driving style – especially for braking points. With the narrower tyres, we will have to be careful not to wear them out too quickly and we will need to adapt the set-up and weight distribution to cope with this. My only hope is that the car is easy to drive, because the new rules will favour cars that are not too sensitive – we need a car that behaves consistently in a wide range of conditions.
“It's hard to say what my objectives are. Based on my experience from previous years, you never really know what to expect until the season starts because things can change so quickly, especially during the winter. When I was with BMW-Sauber in 2008, I remember the car did not meet our expectations at the start of the year, but within a month we had turned things around and I took pole position in Bahrain.
“Last year, Renault's car was not that competitive, so I'm being realistic because I know that we need to make up a lot of ground if we want to fight at the front – but the team has been concentrating on the 2010 car for a long time, and I'm convinced that we are moving in the right direction. Even if we start the season in the midfield, I'm sure we can catch the other teams during the year.”
The very ongoing participation of Renault in F1 2010 came under the microscope in the wake of the fall-out from the explosive 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal late last year, and it was only the sale of a 75 per cent majority stake in the Oxfordshire operation to Luxembourg investment firm Genii Capital in December that secured the team's future.