Kubica’s return nears, but there are ‘i’s to dot and ‘t’s to cross
“Although conversations are ongoing with Kubica, it is still yet to be finally decided who will replace Massa. We will make an announcement when we have something to announce but nothing is planned this weekend in Abu Dhabi.”
That is the Williams statement ahead of Robert Kubica driving in the post-Abu Dhabi test for the team. The test, on Tuesday, will be his third for Williams and although the 2018 deal has still to be confirmed, our understanding is that he will, in fact, be racing for the team next year, pending the expected resolution of contract issues. This would mark his full comeback seven years after injuring his arm in a rallying accident.
The delay is believed to be about the structure of his payments, and this is almost certainly linked to the fact that an insurance pay-out for the ending of his career will now have to be paid back. It’s an unusual but understandable complication – and similar policies played a part in the decisions of both Stirling Moss and Didier Pironi in not returning to F1 after injury.
Assuming the deal is eventually done, Kubica’s comeback will represent by far the longest anyone has attempted a serious F1 career comeback (although Jan Lammers did make a two-race return to F1 in 1992, having last raced in the category in 1982). Niki Lauda was absent for just two years before making the comeback in 1982 that eventually led to a third world title in ’84. But combined with the extent of Kubica’s injury, nothing of this scale of comeback has been attempted before. If he succeeds, it will surely go down as one of the most remarkable sporting comebacks of all time. Both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have gone on record as believing Kubica to be a special talent, beyond the norm. His (first) F1 career ran from mid-2006 to the end of 2010. Back in 2012, Toto Wolff said, “When I look at what Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean did in the Lotus this year, I am convinced had Robert not had his accident, he’d have been world champion in that car.”
Williams hopes both his talent behind the wheel and the intense level of focus he brings will give them a competitive boost. It is likely, however, that he will miss selected Friday P1 sessions as the team hopes to run a junior driver for several of these. Formula 2 driver Nicholas Latifi has been mentioned in connection with this.
Mark will be discussing Kubica and more on Sky Sports’ F1 Midweek Report tomorrow at 8pm