Robert Kubica: A genuine comeback to Formula One or a publicity stunt?
Formula One drivers are super-athletes. But what Robert Kubica is out to attempt, could be classified as superhuman.
Formula One drivers are super athletes. But what Robert Kubica is out to attempt, could be classified as superhuman. Before you read further, let me make my thoughts clear. I have this positive and exciting feeling that Kubica will make an unexpected, un-thought-of and an absolutely heroic comeback to Formula One with the Renault team in the near future.
The 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix is highly anticipated. In the season-long Ferrari vs Mercedes battle, post-Monaco the form factor seems to have tipped towards Mercedes’ favour. But, it is at Hungary that Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel are expecting themselves to get even. However, this isn’t the only reason why the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend is most-awaited.
On the Monday after the race, Formula One will be hosting an official two-day in-season test. On the first day, Renault confirmed that Robert Kubica will be testing the 2017 racing car and this test would be a new phase in assessing the Pole’s capabilities. The last two months have seen Kubica test the 2012 Renault F1 car and the results of those tests have been convincing enough for both the team and driver to now attempt testing the faster and much-different 2017 version cars. The only irony here though is that most of the other drivers in this test are ‘young drivers’ (read: development drivers) of their respective teams, whereas Kubica is a 76-race veteran and a one-time Grand Prix winner!
It was in the pre-season time of the 2011 Formula One Season when Kubica, who was the sport’s top-rated talent along with Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, met with a fate-changing and career-threatening crash while participating in a club rally in Italy. The injuries prevented Kubica from racing in the 2011 season and he could make a return to full-time racing only in 2013. Since his return, Kubica has driven ‘rally’ cars at various European and World Rally Championship events, but hasn’t raced in a single-seater series apart from occasional testing. Despite this lack of recent single-seater experience, Renault’s faith in Kubica’s talent must be lauded while helping him prepare for a possible return to Formula One.
But could Renault be doing this for publicity? The former world champion team and engine manufacturer is yet to settle in the new hybrid era of the sport and be regarded as the go-to manufacturer for engine customers, or the team to go to for ambitious drivers. But I doubt that the Kubica story is being used for publicity purposes. Let’s remember that running independent tests is actually expensive and Renault has already run two such tests for Kubica. If publicity was their objective, there are far cheaper ways to generate some, if the team so desired.
Could Robert Kubica replace Jolyon Palmer in the 2017 Belgian Grand Prix? The speculation this question creates is interesting for two reasons. First, Palmer has failed to light up the tracks in his second Formula One season with Renault – 10 races in, he’s yet to score for the team. Second, when a talented driver like Kubica comes by, it is almost as difficult to ignore as Fernando Alonso becoming available.
Usually, a ‘new’ driver is offered a young drivers’ test, followed by a few Friday Practice 1 sessions and then a race seat in the coming season(s). However, in Kubica’s case, I hope that Renault don’t follow the norm. But given Kubica’s lack of recent racing experience, would he be awarded a superlicense to race Formula 1 cars? I’ll let Andrew Benson’s tweet do the explanation.
Still getting questions about whether Kubica qualifies for an F1 super licence. It's very clear he would. Apndx L, Int Sporting Code pic.twitter.com/m6MzzYEeSJ
— Andrew Benson (@andrewbensonf1) July 24, 2017
‘What could have been’ is a good way to summarise Kubica’s Formula One career had he not crashed. There were talks that the former BMW Sauber racing car driver could’ve partnered Fernando Alonso at Ferrari with paddock insiders convinced that he was world champion material. However, it has now switched focus to ‘what can be’ for Kubica’s career and I for one am waiting to proudly re-use the headline ‘A Pole on pole’.
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