When Robert Kubica took his maiden Grand Prix start with the BMW Sauber F1 Team on 6th August 2006, the Pole was regarded by many as just another foreigner. Today Robert is accepted and respected as part of Formula One's driver line-up - and is the current leader of the championship. Yet, although motorsport's premier category attracted and fascinated him at an early age, he has never forgotten his roots.
Monaco, Montreal, Sao Paulo: such metropolises permit Robert to prove his undoubted Formula One talents at the wheel of a BMW Sauber F1.08. However, the roots of Poland's first GP winner lie elsewhere. Without doubt the "Czestochowa Kart Circuit" can be considered as one of the most important building blocks in the career of BMW Sauber F1 Team's current driver, for it was there that that he first experienced kart racing.
"I started very young," remembers Kubica. "I was six when I got my first kart. Unfortunately Krakow, my home town, did not have a kart track, meaning we had to travel 150 kilometres to enable me to practice, which obviously cost my father an enormous amount of time and money. It was all for my sake, and I am extremely grateful to him that he made these sacrifices."
However, at that stage Robert, who invariably inhabited the back classrooms rows, did not categorize himself as a real race driver, although his peers in the Krakau school, many of whom were slighter in build than he, most certainly did. "In Poland the minimum age for karting was 10," explains the now 23-year-old, "meaning I had a long wait for my license."
When he eventually received this much-coveted document, there was no holding Robert back. His first races immediately proved to father Artur and mechanic Jurk Wrona that the lad had the talent to go a long way. Then, having outgrown the motorsport scene in his home country within three years, it was time for Robert to seek out challenges new.
Once again he found he could depend upon the wholehearted support of his family. "My father saw that in Poland I won everything," says Robert, "and wanted to give me the chance of comparing myself to the best drivers in the world. In those days the Italian championship offered the highest level of competition in the karting world."
Accordingly, Robert moved to Italy in 1998, which was certainly no easy step for the 13-year-old scholar. Other Poles had made similar motorsport career moves, and failed. But Robert proved he was cut from a different cloth, and celebrated his international karting debut by capturing pole position and earning a visit to the podium with second place. Artur's faith in his son had thus been vindicated.
However, Robert's karting career in Italy almost shuddered to a stop before it truly got off the ground. He explains: "After we left Poland, we had far higher costs than expected and simply ran out of money." Just as Team Kubica faced closure, Robert secured his first works drive.
This contract with CRG did not only solve his financial problems: it proved to be the catalyst for Robert's career at European level, and soon Robert proved able to stand on his own two feet. "The first two years in Italy saw me living with my family and the team. From 16 I lived alone. It was very good schooling for life, as the situation meant I needed to grow up very quickly," he recalls. "Otherwise I would have been lost."
Lost, though, he most certainly was not. Exactly the opposite, in fact: Robert's star was very much in the ascendant and speeding across motorsport's skies. After six years in karts, he switched to single-seater racing cars, climbing the ladder to reach the "World Series by Renault" in 2005 via forays in Formula Renault and Formula 3. His overall championship success in the first-named category caught the attention of BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen and Peter Sauber, and the rest is history.
Robert has proven himself to be one of the top drivers in the sport. In his home country he is a hero. However, this is a role in which Robert does not feel truly comfortable. More important to him is the knowledge that he has been able to repay his family. "Those were extremely difficult times, particularly when I moved to Europe to pursue my career as a race driver. It was not an easy situation for them, for sure, particularly for my Mum. It was pretty tough for her, but now she is happy that I managed to make it into Formula One, and she is proud of me."Source BMW Sauber