Robert Kubica will make an incredible return to the Formula One grid in 2019, driving alongside George Russell at Williams. However, the Pole is putting his racing reputation at risk.
In 2011 Robert Kubica suffered horrendous injuries from a rallying crash, and to many that was the end of the respected racers career.
However, there was one person who believed he would make it back to the grid: Kubica himself.
“Probably the only one who never gave up was myself”
Kubica (BBC Sport Interview) 22/11/2018
Throughout rigorous physiotherapy, rehabilitation support, psychotherapy, and surgery, Kubica was able to get behind the wheel of an F1 car last year. Despite displaying some limitations, due to his hand injuries, the Pole secured a testing role with Williams for 2018 and had practice appearances at Barcelona, Spielberg and Abu Dhabi.
In the last week Williams announced that Kubica will return to a full race seat in 2019, and this was met with mass praise.
Nevertheless I worry that Kubica may damage himself, the team, and his reputation.
If Kubica is unable to perform, understandably due to his injuries, then I fear this may damage his personal confidence in his ability. The recovery he has made is beyond a miracle and to even think he would race again was a farfetched thought in 2011; but Kubica remains a racer.
As one of the most praised drivers between 2007-2011, lapping at the back of the field, seconds off the pace and in an underperforming Williams will be a difficult position for Kubica, as it would be for any driver.
What is crucial is the Robert does not see this as him simply lacking the pace, it must be considered that he can barely grip the wheel with his right hand and that in itself is an incredible obstacle to overcome.
Kubica is not only at risk himself but his race team. Williams are a team stuck in a scary, and seemingly endless downward spiral. 2018 has been the worst year since the Hybrid Era began. Since 2014 the team has finished 3rd-3rd-4th-5th and this year are last in the constructors championship. They have simply dropped off the perch.
If the team are unable to produce a midfield car next year, and have a repeat of 2018, the Grove-based outfit will be in dire need of a miracle.
Lance Stroll’s departure, Sergey Sirotkin being pushed out of a seat and Martini ending their sponsorship agreement puts the team in increased financial difficulties.
Kubica, self admittedly, does not bring the immense financial backing that so many current drivers posses and the team is taking a risk on promoting him to a race seat.
Williams need results, and quick. Are the team banking on PR and media income rather than championship bonus?
Another concern for Kubica is that he damages his reputation.
Prior to his accident, the Pole was considered one of the best of his generation, often displaying supreme car control and pace in a weaker car.
In making his way back to the grid Kubica has furthered his prestige and arguably concretised his place in the history books. This is the comeback of modern day F1.
Yet, in returning to the grid and possibly just making up the numbers, Kubica will find himself struggling for an extended contract.
The risk is Kubica will just fade away. First, dropped from his seat and then amongst hot competition for third/reserve driver roles. I hate to suggest, but is this miracle return conversely the beginning of the end of Kubica in F1?
F1 fandom and the paddock hope that Robert Kubica will be able to perform next year and complete the miracle comeback we see before us.
The downside to this return is the gamble, is this whole scenario just a step too far for Kubica, and Williams? Only 2019 will tell.
Header Image: PlanetF1.com