Ku­bica’s test drive could be another step to­ward F1

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS - — AP

While oth­ers do rou­tine For­mula One test­ing this week, it will mean so much more for Pol­ish driver Robert Ku­bica. Ku­bica, who last raced in F1 seven years ago, will drive the Re­nault F1 car on to­day in the first of two days of test­ing at the Hun­garor­ing cir­cuit in Hun­gary. If he does well, it will be another step to­ward F1 for Ku­bica - six years af­ter sus­tain­ing se­ri­ous right arm in­juries.

“It’s nice to give him the op­por­tu­nity to get back, get some mileage, see how he can han­dle it,” Re­nault tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Nick Ch­ester said. “It’s a good op­por­tu­nity to see what he can do and whether he can come back to For­mula One some­day.”

The 32-year-old Ku­bica is be­ing touted as a pos­si­ble re­place­ment for strug­gling Bri­tish driver Jolyon Palmer next sea­son, to drive along­side Ger­man driver Nico Hulken­berg in a quick-look­ing lineup for 2018. While the con­sis­tent Hulken­berg has scored 26 points with a best fin­ish of sixth, Palmer has yet to score a point.

Ku­bica has been show­ing en­cour­ag­ing signs that his re­mark­able F1 re­turn could hap­pen. Re­nault’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Cyril Abite­boul, is ea­ger to see what he can do in a 2017 car, hav­ing tested out a lighter 2012 F1 model in re­cent weeks.

Driv­ing in the 2017 F1 car, with in­creased down­force and wider tires, would be more de­mand­ing on Ku­bica’s arm and test his fit­ness. Still, Re­nault be­lieves he can cope, al­beit with a slightly adapted steer­ing wheel.

“From what we’ve seen so far his men­tal for­ti­tude is great, he’s pushed very hard to come back,” Ch­ester said. “Phys­i­cally, he’s passed all of his fit­ness tests and we’ve had to do very lit­tle to the car, so he’s ac­tu­ally man­aged pretty well in a mod­ern F1 car.”

Ku­bica, a pop­u­lar driver in F1 from 200610, opted to try his luck at rally driv­ing in 2011. In Fe­bru­ary of that year, a high-speed crash at the Ronde di An­dora rally left him re­quir­ing ex­ten­sive surgery on his right arm. His right hand was par­tially sev­ered, and he sus­tained fur­ther arm and leg frac­tures. He was trapped in the car for more than one hour and needed seven hours of treat­ment af­ter be­ing air­lifted to the hospi­tal.

It was ini­tially feared he could lose his right hand, and a promis­ing ca­reer came to a bru­tal halt. Ku­bica earned 12 F1 podium fin­ishes with his quick, flashy driv­ing and was seen as one of the bright­est tal­ents in the sport. He won the Cana­dian GP driv­ing for BMW Sauber in 2008, af­ter a sec­ond­place fin­ish at the Monaco GP in the pre­vi­ous race.

“Robert’s one of the quick­est driv­ers I’ve ever raced against. Raw, nat­u­ral tal­ent. If he was still rac­ing to­day he’d been in con­tention for a world ti­tle,” three-time F1 cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton said. “Not a lot of great, great driv­ers come through. Then you have real special driv­ers like him. I’ll have a keen eye on how he’s do­ing. It will be great if he’s able to (re­turn).”

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