Despite a difficult first race with Williams at the Australian Grand Prix, Robert Kubica says he has no regrets about his decision to return to Formula One.
After eight years out of the sport recovering from injuries sustained in a horrific rallying accident in early 2011, Kubica made his first race start since November 2010 at the weekend. The grand prix did not go to plan, with Kubica hitting the wall in qualifying and finishing the race three laps down after sustaining front wing damage in the opening corners. To make matters worse, he was off the pace of rookie teammate George Russell throughout the weekend.
His Williams car is the least competitive on the grid this year and shows no signs of making a sudden recovery. The FW42 is not just slow but also difficult to drive, and in qualifying Kubica said he was caught by surprise when the car suddenly started behaving as it should.
There is a huge weight of expectation on Kubica this year, who was considered to be one of the best of his generation and a future champion when he first raced in F1 in 2006, but after eight years recovering from his injuries, he says he has had to reset his expectations.
“I said to the guys [in my team] before Barcelona [testing] that last year I never went off the track once and there will be a moment where I have to try in order to know where the limits are,” he said. “Okay, the qualifying mistake [in Australia] was not even pushing, it was a misjudgement of my evaluation of things, but it’s all these things that you need to learn.
“For example, when rookie drivers were driving [in lower categories] I was fighting for my life. It makes a huge difference in how you approach the weekend.
“From where I’m coming, I’m honest with myself. In qualifying I was disappointed with things — not only my performance — but in the end I know the reasons and I didn’t handle some things the way I liked. In the race, in an even more difficult situation, I think I handled it correctly.”
Kubica had the opportunity to race in other categories such as the German touring car series DTM after his accident, but chose to pursue a return to F1. He is aware that his injury will always be a talking point as long as he is on the grid, but says he has no regrets about committing to a comeback.
“Because of my limitation it looks like I will always have to show more than the others as people are putting question marks and doubts [about my ability]. The only thing I can do is try and do my job the best I can and try to leave every grand prix with positives and negatives, because I don’t believe there can be 100% positive things. You can always do better things, even if you’re winning races, you can always improve.
“Of course I know where I have to improve. I was not expecting some things that were positive that came naturally. And most of the things which were difficult I expected, being here in the past, knowing how Formula One has changed, I think I’m honest enough with myself to judge properly and correctly what I have to learn, where I have to learn and where I have to improve.
“It is this approach that brought me back to Formula One, to keep fighting, otherwise for me it would have been much easier six years ago to accept an opportunity in GTs or DTM, enjoy the racing, have less stress, have probably more fun with driving as I would probably be fighting for better positions. But somehow there is a reason I’m here. It might be that at the end of the year I will regret something but one thing I will not regret is to try. Very simple.”