Exactly one year ago Robert Kubica's life turned upside down. On Thursday, December 1st 2006, he was given his first run in an F1 car, his prize for winning the World Series by Renault title. The previous year's winner, Giorgio Mondini, was also invited along. It was one of those routine winter outings where a team has to honour a commitment to its owners, and everyone is keen to get it out of the way so that they can get on with the real work.
Just to make things even more interesting, Kubica had once been a member of the Renault Driver Development team, alongside Heikki Kovalainen. But he had been dropped by Bruno Michel, the man who runs RDD on behalf of Flavio Briatore. Standards are high, and if you are not seen as a future F1 prospect, then someone else is given a shot.
On that day in Barcelona, Kubica did exactly what we now know to be his style. One of those drivers who don't need time to build up, he just got in and drove the socks off the thing, while keeping just enough in hand so he didn't do anything silly. Using a V10 detuned to replicate V8 power, he was some 0.4 seconds off then Renault test driver Franck Montagny's time, and just a tenth or two shy of the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, Nico Rosberg and Ralf Schumacher. He was also 1.1 seconds ahead of Mondini. It all seemed so easy, just as it did for Michael Schumacher in the Jordan at Silverstone back in 1991.