It has not been the fairytale return to Formula One that Robert Kubica had hoped for.
“A few years ago no one would have put one euro on my comeback,” he said in an interview early this month.
Kubica drove in Formula One from 2006 to 2010. While competing in the Ronde di Andora rally in 2011, he sustained compound fractures to his right elbow, shoulder and leg, and his right forearm was partly severed when his car was impaled on a guardrail.
“I’ve had to rebuild my life from zero,” he said in March as he prepared to return to Formula One with Williams. He will drive for the final time on Sunday in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In September he said he would not remain with the team in 2020.
“It has been a complicated year,” said Kubica, who is from Poland. “But there are many positives, which will remain in my brain, my memory, things which you probably haven’t seen because, as race drivers, it is all about results.
“To me, these things are probably even more important than simple results.”
Williams struggled on the track this season as their cars failed to perform. The team has scored one point, when Kubica placed 10th in the German Grand Prix in July.
“You have to be disappointed,” Kubica, 34, said. “If you are not, you are not living the reality, or, at least, you don’t have goals which are high enough.
“Nobody at Williams, working at the racetrack and in the factory, and also myself, are happy about our season. It is not the season we all were hoping for. It’s not the season I was hoping for.”
Williams missed the first two days of preseason testing because of delays in the build of the car. The difficult season has continued, with Kubica and his teammate, George Russell of England, consistently qualifying at the back of the grid.
Kubica, whose right forearm has atrophied, has shown he can drive at the highest level.
“When I speak of the positives from this season, there was a lot of talk, a lot of questions or remarks about my physical aspect, about my limitations,” Kubica said.
“I think those have completely disappeared. This is an achievement for me because people were looking at my situation, judging, putting doubts on me. But no one mentions my limitations anymore.”
Kubica’s prowess at working with the engineers to help develop a car was one reason Williams promoted him to a race seat after he worked as reserve driver in 2018.
This year, he has been out-qualified by Russell at all 20 races.
“I’m really pleased Williams gave him the opportunity to come back because he had fought hard for many years after his accident to be able to do that,” said Claire Williams, deputy team principal, in an interview.
“I’m sure it has been a frustrating journey this year because he hasn’t had the car, but he did know the circumstances he was coming into at the start, and he has tried his hardest in order to help develop the team.
“He has struggled as well. I think he would probably be honest and admit that, that it hasn’t been the return he would have liked either.”
Kubica has not announced what he will do next. He would prefer to race rather than be a development driver with another team.
If he does race, it will be in another series because there are no seats available in Formula One.
Nico Hülkenberg of Germany is in the same situation.
After nine seasons of racing, and 176 starts, Hülkenberg is without a seat next year after Renault announced in August that he would be replaced in 2020 by Esteban Ocon.
Hülkenberg, 32, is going to take his time to decide what he would like to do next. He said IndyCar was an option, or he may take a sabbatical and wait for the 2021 Formula One driver market to open up. Seats will be available then because a number of driver contracts expire at the end of next season.
“I’ll rewind a little bit, take a moment or two or three for myself, see what I want to do, see what seems of interest,” Hülkenberg said. “I am certainly not having the feeling that I want to rush into something just to race.”
He said he had achieved his best with the cars he had to drive. He started at Williams in 2010, drove for Force India in 2012 and again from 2014 to 2016, had a year at Sauber in 2013, and spent the last three seasons at Renault. He has never finished on the podium.
“I’ve performed well over the years, very consistently,” Hülkenberg said. “Many times, when other people weren’t hired, I was wanted, hired and paid to drive, so that speaks of some quality.
“Of course, I would like to have a different record, more points, a podium, victories, but I know the reasons why things didn’t go that way, and I’m at peace with myself there.”
Daniel Ricciardo, his teammate, said Hülkenberg had the talent to return to Formula One.
“I don’t fear for him if he doesn’t come back to F1; he’s a pretty switched-on kid,” Ricciardo said, “so if he goes to do other things, he’ll be OK.”
Ian Parkes c.2019 The New York Times Company
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
Updated Date: Nov 28, 2019 15:38:01 IST