Alfa Romeo reserve driver Robert Kubica explained how his Saturday went after an unexpected call from team boss Fred Vasseur to replace Kimi Raikkonen for the Dutch Grand Prix.
A reserve driver is supposed to be ready to take over driving duties at any time, should a driver of the official lineup encounter an issue. However, the probability to see a driver be deemed unfit to participate in a Grand Prix weekend is extremely low. A 36-year-old Kubica was therefore extremely surprised when he received an early morning call from Vasseur to jump in Raikkonen’s cockpit for the weekend after the Finn tested positive for COVID 19.
“Well, to be honest, I have been woken up this morning. So I hear something ringing, my room phone, but I thought it was next door. So I woke up, and I didn’t understand what’s going on. Then I watched my cellphone, I saw missed calls from Fred [Vasseur],” Kubica said.
“I first thought I’ve tested positive because I have arrived late here, I have been in Warsaw until Thursday afternoon with our partner Orlen. Then I opened the phone up, and I see no, I’m negative, and at the same time, I was calling Fred.
“So of course, once you receive a call early morning, you know that something is going on. And probably the team will need me. Then I waited until 9am [after the curfew] and we could get into the paddock to start working.”
“And from there, let’s say, no more quite boring Saturday for me. And it became a quite hectic and quite challenging Saturday, wearing overalls.
“You are prepared. Because it’s written in your contract and your position, you know very well your position. But to be honest, maybe I’m too old, but I never really thought it might happen.”
Zandvoort is making his comeback to the Formula One calendar this year after the circuit was greatly improved to be able to host overpowered single-seaters safely. One of the Dutch track’s major specificity remains its banking corners.
These special turns are a complete challenge for some drivers that never really experienced such curves in the past. Jumping in the C41 for the first time on Saturday was therefore an even bigger challenge for Kubica that skipped two very precious practice sessions.
“It’s something new, but when you have no idea of the car, of the tires, and then adding quite high banking, it’s a step-by-step thing. And as I said, for me, the approach was the correct one.
“Of course, I could do much better. But with the risk you have to take in qualifying with these cars, and this morning again some drivers made mistakes. I’m not stupid, and I know where my place is.
“Turn 3 was always a big challenge, I think mainly I lost last time in the morning there. But in the qualifying, I did improve a bit. It’s not often you have an opportunity to drive on such a banked corner. Even Kimi was also struggling in those Turns 2 and 3.”