Aston Martin team boss Mike Krack believes Robert Kubica to be the most naturally gifted racing driver he has ever seen.
Krack worked directly alongside the Polish racing driver as Chief Engineer at the BMW-Sauber squad, and was at the helm during Kubica’s 2008 season when he claimed his first pole position and maiden Grand Prix victory.
Kubica, then racing in only his second full season of Formula 1, became a dark horse for the title as his strong start to the year saw him leave Canada with 42 points from seven races – meaning a four-point lead over eventual champion Lewis Hamilton, and chief rival Felipe Massa.
However, Kubica would go on to score just 33 more points over the remainder of the season, and would finish a distant fourth in the Drivers’ Championship.
BMW went off the boil in 2009, with Kubica’s move to Renault for 2010 yielding strong results. In early 2011, Kubica suffered horrific injuries during an extra-curricular rallying event in Italy, and would not take part in a Grand Prix again until landing a race seat with Williams for 2019.
Kubica’s time with Williams ended after one season, with the Pole switching to become a test and reserve driver for Alfa Romeo – a role he’s held ever since.
It’s been a career that promised so much more, and Krack said Kubica in his prime was simply top-class.
“The best one I’ve ever seen,” Krack enthused as he spoke of Kubica on the Beyond the Grid podcast.
With Krack also working alongside four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel at BMW-Sauber as well as re-uniting with him at Aston Martin for 2022, he was asked whether Kubica had the measure of the German.
“From a pure talent, I think how he has a feeling in describing the car, I think he is really, really, really strong,” Krack answered.
The main reason for Kubica’s slide away from prominence during 2008 was a decision by BMW to focus their development resources and energy on creating the 2009 car. This was due to the introduction of a big regulation change, with the manufacturer opting against chasing the 2008 title – much to Kubica’s, and Krack’s, frustration.
It led the Luxembourger to make the decision to quit the team altogether, having spent eight years working to haul the Sauber squad forward.
“You remember that I left [in 2009]? There is a link there,” Krack explained.
“We had worked our way up so hard from 2001 onwards in order to become a winning team. A winning team is maybe wrong because we won one race at the end, but we had pole position in Bahrain, I think we were second in Melbourne. So I think, we will say, a podium team. It was such a good climb over the years, making progress.
“I was a bit concerned about the new regulations, because 2009 was the introduction of KERS.
“It was still very open, of mandatory use or not, on the power that you would have with it, and all these kinds of technical details. I wasn’t sure how we were going to cope with it.
“So we were pushing very, very hard to try to do everything to win the championship and to develop the car as much as we could, until the end. But the master plan did not have this included – to continue working on the 2008 car. It was very, very difficult because we thought we could do more than we did in the end.”
With BMW choosing to pull out of F1 at the end of 2009 after the F1.09 proved to be largely a flop, Krack said winning the 2008 title with Kubica could have resulted in the manufacturer choosing to stay in the sport for much longer.
“I think, yes, I think they would have stayed,” he said.
“But, to be honest, I was not part of it anymore in 2009. The reasons why they pulled out – was it only success or were there other things? I think there was also the financial crisis at the time, so you would have to ask the big players.”