The Inspired Return: Robert Kubica Finally Gets his Comeback
When it first started circulating around the paddock and across social media itself last year that former Grand Prix winner Robert Kubica was eager to finally make a return to Formula One, many criticized that he would not be able to due to the injuries he sustained in an accident while he was competing in the 2011 Ronde di Andorra Rally, but it’s brilliant that after over eight years since his last season, Kubica will make a very welcome and inspiring return to the grid with Williams in 2019, defying the odds and hushing the critics along the way.
After a very successful junior career across Europe, Kubica became the official reserve driver for the BMW Sauber team in 2006, and went on to make his F1 debut for the team later that year at the Hungarian Grand Prix, replacing the unfit and eventually departing Jacques Villeneuve. He finished in seventh but was sadly disqualified post-race thanks to an underweight car. However, Kubica would show his true ability at the Italian Grand Prix, where he scored his first podium after finishing third, in only his third Grand Prix.
Constant points scoring positions in 2007 showed Kubica was loving life in top level racing, but that year will forever be remembered for his sickening accident at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve during the Canadian Grand Prix. Despite an impact with a concrete barrier at an estimated speed of 180 MPH and rolling over across the track, Kubica was lucky to escape with only a sprained ankle. An incredibly lucky getaway for one of the most sickening accidents in recent times.
2008 would prove that Kubica could indeed mix it with the best as constant podiums and his very first and only win the following year in Canada seen him lead the championship after the round at Montreal and tipped to become one of the future stars of the sport. Moving to Renault in 2010 seen more success with podiums and constant points scoring positions, and was ready for hopefully more success with the team for 2011. In a recent interview with Journalist Tom Clarkson for Formula One’s online podcast “Grill the Grid”, he had even revealed he has pre-signed a contract with Ferrari to replace Felipe Massa in 2012. The future looked so, so bright.
However, Kubica was competiting in the 2011 edition of the Ronde di Andorra Rally, when on the rally’s first stage on the 6th February, he crashed his Super 2000 Skoda Fabia at high speed and hit a guardrail. The rail penetrated the car’s cockpit, hitting Kubica and leaving him trapped for over an hour until freed by the rescue teams. Kubica was diagnosed with partial amputation of his arm as well as compound fractures to his elbow and shoulder as well as a very significant loss of blood. Several operations to help fix the fractures and to attend to his forearm saw Kubica miss the 2011 season with the hope of a return in 2012. This was sadly not to be and while Kubica turned his attention back to rallying, the hope of a return to F1 seemed lost.
In 2013 Kubica returned to winning ways when he competed and won the WRC-2 championship with Citroen. A step up to the WRC in 2014 saw Kubica join the field in an M-Sport backed Lotos Ford Fiesta WRC, where for the following few years showed plenty of promise but was marred by accidents and crashes. Kubica never looked at home on the WRC stages, and no doubt he longed for a F1 return. Despite tests with Mercedes in their simulator in 2012, Kubica stated in an interview with BBC F1 that due to the limitations of the movements of his arm and the tight confines of an F1 cockpit, a return was unlikely unless the cockpit was widened
Never forget the first time: Robert wins the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix.
However in 2017, Kubica arranged a test with Renault to test their 2012 car, the (Lotus) E20 at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, and made a debut in their current 2017 car in the mid-season test after the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix. A move to Williams late in the year in an effort to secure a race seat for 2018 after negotiations with Renault floundered, Kubica looked in line until he was just pipped at the last moment by Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin. Kubica joined as the team’s official test and reserve driver, setting times in the Pre-Season Testing in Barcelona faster than that set of Sirotkin and teammate Lance Stroll. Kubica made his official Grand Prix return at the 2018 Spanish Grand Prix when he competed in FP1 for the team, and from attending that particular weekend myself, it was great to see for Robert. Trackside he looked as quick as ever and there was a massive Polish following there, I was very pleasantly surprised at the love and desire by Polish and international fans and they’re eagerness to see Kubica race once again.
There was great delight when Kubica was announced as a Williams race driver for 2019, partnering recently crowned Formula 2 champion George Russell at the team. The announcement was met with delight and well wishes by other drivers and teams alike, and I am happy for Robert that he finally makes the comeback he deserves so much. Sure he might not be as quick or as good as he is used to be but there’s been many stories in sport in general where competitors don’t get a second chance, and I’m glad Robert will not join this list, especially when he was on course for so much more.
If you want a truly inspiring story and an example as to why you should never give up in what you believe in despite how you fall, then Robert Kubica is who you should google. I wish the very best to Robert for 2019 and beyond.
Driving for Williams in the Pre-Season Barcelona test, February 2018.