By: Sergio Álvarez
For us at Iberianmph, staying put at the Hungaroring test after the race weekend was a no-brainer. Indeed, it was a natural consequence of having chatted with the current grid of F2 and GP3 young talent, for the last two days have represented a great opportunity for many of them to show what they are capable of with 900 BHP or so at their backs.
Consequently, the F1 paddock had an environment of familiarity for us, saying hello again to the likes of George Russell, Santino Ferrucci, Luca Ghiotto, Sean Gelael, Nicholas Latifi or Nobuharu Matsushita. Probably we leave our imagination fly too high, but it looked like ‘our’ paddock, like if the usual F1 hacks were the guests and we were the ones who shared some sort of secret with the mentioned boys.
And then the question “how have you been getting fit to next week’s F1 test?” morphed into “how well do you feel now physically?”. He (George Russell) said to Iberianmph that he did not feel very tired despite the temperatures, and that he could have done even more laps. He is not worried about the anonymous test sessions for Mercedes and the leading Ferrari on both days (Leclerc on Tuesday, Vettel on Wednesday): “The other teams have been focusing on short runs and getting on top of the timesheets.” Russell even found time to have his say on the halo a few minutes before the whole week on racing ended. “There’s a much better view than I’d imagined. One of the positive bits is that, at the end of the day, the halo protected my sight from the sunlight. But getting out of the car takes a bit more of experience. Towards the end I was fine getting in and out.”
“I’m getting much more comfortable with the car now; with an F1 car you carry around 30-40 kph more [than with an F2] in high speed corners. In them I’m still trying to find the limits, and I found them at Turn 4…! But I have to be careful because we have parts to test.” Matsushita ratified this impression: “There is so much downforce compared to F2….”
No fault of their own, but on Wednesday all the youngsters were eclipsed by the great old hand (no pun intended), the man that had moved dozens of Polish compatriots to bring red and white colours to what otherwise would be the quiet surroundings of the Hungaroring. In fact, now I can have forever the narcissistic pleasure of knowing myself as one of just two Spanish journalists covering the return of Robert Kubica to an F1 session when people could scrutinize him.
However, I had no need to ask him about his clumsy first laps. On Wednesday morning, I decided to watch the on-track action from the inside of Turn 1 and, from that point, I was a witness to Kubica’s lock-up and running just behind Russell. But Robert was first to tell the world about his own mistakes: “The start of the day wasn’t easy. I probably did one of the biggest fuck-ups in F1! I was so concentrated trying not to pick up the cars in front of me that I forgot that they are now wider. But this is the only mistake I did, which is positive.” In addition, he did not find any serious problem with the handling of the buttons on the steering wheel: “There’s a part of it that has been specially adapted for me. It’s just a reshuffle of the buttons’ positions, so that I can operate easier with the high-priority buttons, while the lower-priority buttons which you never use are a bit more difficult to reach. Apart from this, everything is fine.”
For the record, he completed over 140 laps in his single day, setting the fourth fastest time. But the man himself does not get too emotional about his performance: “There’s a long way to go and it’s far ahead. So, for the moment, I enjoy today.”
It is the wish of everyone at Iberianmph that we can talk to Robert Kubica again the next time that we get into the F1 paddock; and in a yellow overalls, of course.