Six years after the horrible rally accident that nearly severed his arm. But the strong speedy, Robert Kubica successively done a F1 test in Hungary on Wednesday with current specified F1 car, that could permit whether the Pole makes an outstanding race comeback after his long Formula 1 career absent.
Kubica was considered one of the best Formula 1 drivers of his generation racing in between 2006 and 2010 before a career-threatening off-season rally accident.
The Pole made 76 Formula one grand prix starts, and finished 12 podium, including one race win at Canada in 2008. Four season Kubica raced with BMW powered Sauber.
He joined Renault in 2010 but before the next season he crashed during the first stage of the Ronde di Andora rally. He sustained a partial amputation of his right forearm, compound fractures and a significant loss of blood. The injuries were so severe he was not expected to be able to drive an F1 car competitively again.
In 2013, he was almost recovered and to do some simulator practice with Mercedes, but it did not have the required movement for him to drive an F1 car. He was not able to rotate his wrist enough – he could turn left only by lifting his elbow, which is not possible in an F1 car cockpit.
Following the Polish speedy joining to rally championship, and spent three seasons, evidencing incredible fast and brave, but disposed following big crashes.
Kubica drove the 2012 race car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where he was stunned by fans eager to ask him about his comeback prospects. Recently he was also tested GP3 and Formula E cars, and showed good pace despite finding it struggle without power steering.
“F1 is tough and I have been away from racing for a long time,” Kubica said. “I don’t want to risk going racing when I’m not ready for a couple of races and then have a setback.”
Kubica will only consider an offer of an F1 drive if all the circumstances are right: the car, the team and, most importantly, his health. “I am not 18 any more. I’m not a rookie that wants every chance to race in F1. I only want to be in F1 if I’m 100% sure I am capable of doing the job. This is the target, although I don’t know if I will have the opportunity.”
The significant moment was happened around last December, when Kubica do some simulator test run at the Italian racing car constructor Dallara, and realized an F1 return might now be a realistic possibility.
“I needed to get back in a proper rhythm of my life and if the chance will come I need to get the maximum out of it,” Kubica said in a BBC Sport interview on the eve of Wednesday’s test.
“In most of the cars I was able to achieve what was my target and four months ago nobody could expect this and that’s why I really appreciate the chance Renault are giving me. But I want to do my best.”
The guys at Renault had kept in touch, and they suggested a one-off test in a 2012 F1 car.
Robert has passed the FIA’s mandatory cockpit extraction test ahead of his first drive in Renault’s 2017 F1 car. The Pole took the cockpit extraction test, which guarantees a driver can exit a car within 5.0sec and replace the steering wheel within 10.0sec with wearing full race kit and helmet.
“Part of this testing is also to know better myself,” Kubica added. “My life has changed. I know what a big influence the injury has on daily life.
“Everyone sees me as a driver, but in the end I am a human being, I do usual stuff at home. I train, I cycle, most of the stuff most of the people do. My limitations have a bigger influence on daily life than in driving cars.”
“From the sensitivity point of view, I am at a good level. The biggest problem is not only the strength, it is the movement limitations. On the front arm I don’t have proper supination, so I cannot twist my front arm and wrist, so this is actually the biggest limitation.”
Kubica successively completed over a race distance in the morning session of Hungarian in-season testing, 72 laps during the course of 10 stints. In the afternoon he made another 70 laps and finished with fourth fastest lap-time. His best time of 1min 18.572sec was 1.448sec down on the fastest lap set by pole sitter Sebastian Vettel.
Kubica’s time was only just over one‑tenth of a second slower than the qualifying time for the Hungarian Grand Prix set by the Renault driver Jolyon Palmer. “It was a fantastic feeling for me to be here today in the RS17,” Kubica said.
“It has been an incredible journey to this point, where I have answered many questions to myself,” Kubica said after the session.
“After today, it’s too early to say what the next step might be. For now, I owe a big thanks to everyone at Renault Sport F1.
“It was a fantastic feeling for me to be here today in the R.S.17 and also it was amazing to see so many fans come to see me out on track, so thank you to all of them.”
The Formula 1 paddock will be glad to see him back. “Robert’s one of the quickest drivers I’ve ever raced against,” Lewis Hamilton said this week. “He’s one of the best drivers I’ve driven against. If he was still racing today he’d been in contention for a world title, if he’d not won one.
“Just raw, natural talent, which I think as a sport it’s a shame we don’t have here with us – because there’s not a lot that comes through. Not a lot of great, great drivers come through. You have some that are much better than the rest, but still not the greatest, and then you have real special drivers like him.”
Sebastian Vettel, too, acknowledged his skills. “It’s great for him to be back,” the German said. “There was never a doubt about his talent, his speed and his ability to drive the car.”
Kubica is favourite for the Renault seat next year ahead of Oliver Rowland, according to the youngster.
Rowland, who is second in this year’s F2 championship and has ambitions to take struggling Jolyon Palmer’s seat next year, believes Kubica is at the front of the queue.
“I see myself as not coming with the most backing in the world but second favourite behind Robert from that side of things,” Rowland said.
“I respect him from what he did before and it would be nice to see him there if I wasn’t fighting for the seat!
“Robert comes with a lot of support and everybody would like to see him back in Formula One which is why it’s a little bit difficult for me pushing that seat as well when he’s in the frame.”
Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. is also understood to be on Renault’s radar, having also been scouted last year, though the manufacturer would need to pay Red Bull a hefty sum to acquire the Spaniard’s services.
Rowland, though, feels he is second favourite for the 2018 F1 drive.
“Robert comes with a lot of support and everybody would like to see him back in Formula 1 which is why it’s a little bit difficult for me pushing that seat as well when he’s in the frame,” Rowland told Channel 4.
“As for the other two, Nicholas is my teammate in F2 so there is a direct comparison there. If he was to beat me then he should get a seat in F1 and if it’s the other way round you’d like to think that I would.
“Sirotkin did GP2 last year and finished third but I’d like to think that I’m doing a slightly better job. We were also teammates in 2014 in World Series by Renault and I beat him then.
“I see myself as not coming with the most backing in the world but second favourite behind Robert from that side of things.
“I respect him from what he did before and it would be nice to see him there if I wasn’t fighting for the seat!”