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Kubica: Australia owed me this podium!

28 March 2010

Robert Kubica was left lauding a magnificent drive and 'a brilliant boost' for Renault F1 after getting in amongst the big boys in the 2010 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne this weekend with a gritty and determined second place – a result he afterwards claimed the Albert Park street circuit 'owed' him for previous disappointments.

In 2007 Kubica's gearbox let him down after qualifying an excellent fifth, a year later the Pole was forced out of contention following a coming-together with Williams rookie Kazuki Nakajima having started from the front row, and twelve months ago he looked odds-on for at least the runner-up laurels until a late-race collision with Red Bull Racing rival Sebastian Vettel dashed his hopes. From ninth on the grid this time around, his chances of atoning for those frustrations looked relatively slim – but that is exactly what he did.

A lightning getaway when the starting lights went out was key to that success, as the Kraków native darted straight through the middle, artfully avoided the first corner carnage and emerged again briefly in third, though he would be re-passed by front row-starter Mark Webber before the opening lap was out. Nonetheless, from there Kubica drove a mature, composed and above all fast race to stave off all challengers, expertly keeping the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso behind him for lap-after-lap to take the chequered flag a superb second, just twelve seconds down on winner Jenson Button.

“Second place today is a fantastic result for the team after all the hard work we have put in over the winter,” he underlined. “My start was very good. I took it very cautiously into the first corner; I saw Jenson very close to Fernando and I was hoping there would be a touch, but I was also hoping to survive it! I braked very early and took it easy. Actually I had no choice – I had to go to the right, so I just went over the kerb and managed to overtake both of them. The first lap was very tricky – the balance of the car was very, very difficult – but then afterwards it paid off.

“It was a difficult race to call in terms of strategy, and I pitted to change my intermediates for slicks as soon as we saw Button's pace. I managed to jump Massa in the pits and I came out ahead of Button, but it was my first lap on slicks on the damp track and his tyres were warmed up already, so it wasn't easy and I couldn't hold him off.

“I thought I would pit again later in the race, but the team said we didn't need to if I could look after the tyres until the end of the race. I tried to take care of them as much as I could, which wasn't easy because I had Hamilton behind me and then Massa, but in the end my tyres lasted and we managed to get this great result. We know there is still a long way to go before we are really competitive with the fastest teams, but this is a brilliant boost for everybody in the team. I was hoping [for a podium], but to be honest not really [thinking it was possible].

“In February, after the first Jerez test I wrote a message to my friend to say 'if you want to bet €100, put it on a podium in Australia'. On Friday he replied to me after first free practice when we were very competitive and said 'I should have listened to you – I didn't place a bet'. I said 'yeah, don't bet, we won't make the podium' – but we managed it. Of course, it was a crazy race, but it was very good fun. Australia was very unlucky for me in past years; I've always been very competitive here but I never finish – so this podium is something Australia was owing me from the past.”

Team-mate Vitaly Petrov similarly made a scorching start to leap from his 18th grid position into the top ten, and the young Russian rookie displayed encouraging early pace to remain there until he unfortunately found himself caught out shortly after switching over to slicks and ended his race beached in the kitty-litter.

“I made a good start to gain eight places and enjoyed the first few laps in the wet when I was inside the top ten,” recounted the man dubbed the 'Vyborg Rocket'. “We made a change to slick tyres at the same time as most of the field, but when I was on the slicks I got caught out in the braking zone for turn three and got stuck in the gravel. I'm very disappointed because I think I could have scored points today. Still, this is a great day for the team and Robert's second place shows the potential of the car.”

That much was corroborated by a visibly delighted Renault F1 team principal Eric Boullier, who in only his second race in the job has already succeeded in leading the Oxfordshire outfit out of the doldrums that characterised the 2009 campaign and to a better result than any that was registered last year. This, the Frenchman hopes, will be merely the start.

“The second place today is a fantastic result for Robert and the whole team in Enstone and Viry,” he enthused. “We worked really hard over the winter and we can be very proud of this result. Although we still need to improve the car, this podium gives us all a lot of motivation to keep pushing.

“Robert drove a perfect race, looking after the car and fighting hard. I also have to say a big 'well done' to the mechanics, who did an excellent job to get Robert out ahead of Massa in the pits, which was crucial for the final outcome of the race. It was a disappointing end to the race for Vitaly, but he is still learning about F1. His start was very strong, and with his strategy he could have been challenging for points.”

“Robert drove a brilliant race today,” agreed chief race engineer Alan Permane. “He made a good start on the intermediate tyres, and I think we stopped to fit slicks at pretty much the ideal time. After that he drove an excellent race and managed his tyres perfectly to bring the car home in second place. Unfortunately, Vitaly's race ended early as he got caught out in the damp conditions, but he has another weekend under his belt and will look to bounce back in Malaysia next weekend, where we will have some more new aero updates on the car.”

“Today's result is excellent,” concluded Renault's head of engine operations, Rémi Taffin, “and we must dedicate it to the mechanics who have worked so hard over the last few weeks and, of course, to Robert Kubica who delivered an exceptional performance. Without him we would not have been able to get this result. We're not yet at the level of the leading teams, but we will continue working hard to get there.”


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