Robert Kubica has admitted that joining the Renault team in 2010 provided him with a welcome morale boost after struggling in the final days of BMW's F1 experiment, and suggested that he is not the only one who regrets missing out on the 2008 title.
Despite Renault also suffering a downturn in fortune in 2008 and '09, the Pole described his move as giving him 'fresh air' and an environment where he could play a part in moving back towards the front of the F1 grid. Although little was expected of the R30 before the season started, it proved to be one of the revelations of the 2010 campaign and, especially with Kubica at the wheel, showed the potential to upset the frontrunners.
Although the Pole dropped away a little in the final standings, eventually winding up eighth overall, Renault returned to the top five in the constructors' table after claiming several top three finishes,
"[Last season] brought me into the Renault team, where I found the fresh air that I was starting to need," Kubica told the official F1 website, "I didn't drive for Renault in 2009 and all the changes happened during the winter, before I really started to work with my new team. There was an important reshuffle of shareholders, but the core of the team remained almost unchanged [and] it was a good 'recovery' season as the team followed my suggestions and indications, and I enjoyed the driveability of the car. Three podiums and some strong races made the 2010 season one to remember."
After a rollercoaster run over his first four seasons in the top flight - ranging from a podium in his first year with BMW, the monster shunt that could have claimed his life in 2007, a first victory and championship challenge in 2008, and the BMW nightmare that preceded his switch to Renault - Kubica admits that he still has some regrets about the decisions the German outfit took when poised to challenge the likes of McLaren and Ferrari for overall honours.
"Each of the five seasons was very different from the others, [as] there were a lot of changes in terms of car specifications, regulations, tyres and ambitions for results," he noted, "In my first season, I was a test driver, then a Friday driver and, finally, a racing driver. I was pleased with it because I gained a lot of experience and I also achieved a podium at Monza, which remains one of my best moments.
"The 2007 season was not so satisfactory. I suffered many technical problems and a very heavy shunt in Montreal, [but] the 2008 season started very well, with a high point in Canada, where I won my first race and became championship leader. Unfortunately, the team took a different view on the goal for that season and they decided to stop the development of the car and concentrate on efforts for the following year.
"It was a real pity because the team and I lost a unique opportunity and I am sure that I am not the only one who regrets that decision, [especially as] 2009 was a nightmare as the car was created around a KERS system that was not working properly. When it was removed, it left me with major weight distribution problems. In the middle of the season, BMW decided to pull out from F1, but we had a good second part of the season that culminated in a podium in Brazil."
Kubica, who will again partner Russia's Vitaly Petrov at the rebranded Lotus Renault F1 team in 2011, insists that he is always learning about the sport, but hopes that this year could finally be the one where he returns to the top of the podium.
"In the first season, you learn a lot, but mainly because you are discovering almost everything," he explained, "Then you start to fine-tune, not only the car set-up, but also the race strategies and the championship strategies, as happened in 2008 when I was challenging for the title for most of the season. You never stop learning, especially when the regulations are changing.
"I am not disappointed since I am very aware that, to win a title, you need several favourable circumstances. It is a bit like a gearbox - if just one of the gears is not working properly, then the whole mechanism collapses, or at least loses competitiveness. However, I am confident that 2011 will be a good season because, this winter, the team were able to work with a more stable financial and management situation, compared to one year ago. [Team principal] Eric Boullier said that he wants our car to win races this year - he expressed exactly what I feel!"