What did the young Pole think about – during and after – his spectacular crash during the Canadian Grand Prix?
“I have absolutely no fear at all of driving, no nightmares, no problems getting into a race car,” says Robert Kubica, less than four weeks after surviving possibly the most spectacular crash in F1 history. The words of a sporting genius or a lunatic? Surely the experience must have had some impact on his day-to-day life?
“I don’t think my driving has changed since the accident. If you think that at Magny-Cours I qualified well and finished fourth, it’s obvious that I’m the same as before. I don’t have any bad things going through my mind when I’m driving – I can keep my levels of concentration where they’re meant to be and I’m not scared at all, despite what happened.”
Had he been prepared by months of rigorous training for such an eventuality? Were his lightning-quick reactions responsible for his remarkable survival?
“There is no training for anything like that,” he concedes, “and when it happens, you know that you’re just there for the ride. When I crashed, there was no point trying to do anything – I couldn’t steer because the front wheels left the ground and the impact destroyed the front section of the car, so all I could do was hang on and hope for the best. There is no time to think while you are crashing and there’s no room to move inside an F1 car. If I’m mid-collision there’s nothing I can do except wait to see what happens at the end.”
Early reports suggesting he had sprained an ankle and sustained concussion were, he says, false. “As soon as the car came to a standstill I checked that I could move my limbs and straight away I knew I was okay. In fact, most of the emergency team that came to my rescue were standing around with nothing to do. I had some pain in my ankle, which lasted for three or four days, because the impact was basically channelled through that foot, as I’m tall for this sport [6ft] and my body fills the cockpit so much.
“It can’t have been easy for my fans, especially my family, who would have seen this happen live on television. They would have been fearing the worst and because all the radios and monitoring systems had been destroyed in the crash, I could not contact the team and nobody except me knew that I was actually okay.”
He thinks the head and neck safety (HANS) harness was the biggest factor in his survival, yet BMW’s safety-first approach to engineering that resulted in such an immensely strong safety cell cannot be played down. “Ten years ago and I would have been instantly killed,” he admits. But when asked if today’s safety-led designs encourage recklessness on the track due to a feeling of invincibility on the part of some drivers, he quickly dispels such a notion. “The whole point of racing in Formula 1 is to be the fastest – it’s always been that way. It’s just that the FIA has been pushing for safer cars and fortunately it has had its way. The fact I was walking about a few hours after my crash proves it was right to make those demands.”
He says he’s well aware of the safety advancements that have been made over the years and doesn’t take modern technology for granted. “Even though I wasn’t an avid follower of F1 for a long time [until his arrival in the sport, Poland had little interest in it], in my training these things are often discussed. I’m grateful to still be here but now I just want to race again and take first place on the podium. If I’d had my own way I’d have been racing at Indianapolis…”