Robert Kubica heads to the first European round of the 2010 grand prix season in confident mood, buoyed by a run of scoring finishes in Renault R30.
The Pole could have scored in each of the four races to date had he not been involved in a first-lap clash with Adrian Sutil in Bahrain, but has bounced back to claim an unexpected podium among his three top five finishes since then, and is optimistic that his streak can continue at the Circuit de Catalunya this weekend.
"I think we should take a lot of positives from the first four races," he insisted, "If you had said to me at the start of the season, or even after Bahrain, that I would have scored 40 points and three top five finishes, I would have been more than happy. However, at the same time, there has still been some frustration, especially in Shanghai where the safety car in the middle of the race definitely cost me a podium. But you have to accept that this is part of racing. Sometimes the luck goes your way and sometimes against you."
Kubica's surprise is shared by those who believed that a Renault team left in turmoil at the end of the 2009 campaign would struggle to justify the Pole's talent. However, under the guidance of new team boss Eric Boullier, the regie
has bounced back and is a definite top five team, even top four if it continues to match Mercedes for performance.
"The whole team is working hard and it's good that we're making the most of our opportunities in the races," Kubica continued, "But it's important to remain realistic because we still need some big steps to be at the front of the grid and fighting consistently with Red Bull and McLaren in normal conditions.
"The next race in Barcelona will be another big test for us because the return to Europe is usually a turning point in the season, with many teams planning big upgrades to their cars. It's something we always expect in Barcelona and a lot of the teams have big expectations for their new packages. We are not planning to bring any huge updates, but we will keep gradually improving the car, just like we did during the first four races. We have to wait and see how we compare with the others, but maybe the order of the teams will be quite different compared to the start of the year."
With a lot of pre-season testing over the years having taken place in Barcelona, and the Circuit de Catalunya featuring on a lot of schedules on the way up the racing ladder, Kubica knows that there will be less scope for experience to play a part this weekend.
"It's the sort of circuit that all the drivers and teams know back to front, so I'm expecting a very tough battle," he admitted, "All the teams will be very well prepared and usually get close to their potential, so it's important that we maximise our performance so that we can fight for points in the race."
As well as Kubica enjoying a return to form after a dismal 2009 campaign with BMW Sauber, the Renault team knows that it has found a driver with which it can begin to rebuild its own reputation.
"His performances so far this year have been faultless and he's squeezing every ounce of performance from the car on every lap," chief engineer Alan Permane confirmed, "Just as impressive is his work ethic and dedication outside the cockpit, which is the most I have seen from any
driver. He spends an enormous amount of time with his engineers at the track going over data, doing video analysis, and just trying to improve the car in any way he can. Seeing such commitment is a big motivation for the entire team."