Re­mark­able Ku­bica gets F1 race seat

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - SCOTT MITCHELL

Robert Ku­bica will make an ex­traor­di­nary For­mula 1 come­back next sea­son with Wil­liams and says he is not scared by the prospect of re­turn­ing to the grid af­ter an ab­sence of more than eight years.

Ku­bica will race in F1 for the first time since the 2010 sea­son fi­nale af­ter be­ing signed to part­ner Ge­orge Rus­sell. The

’08 Cana­dian Grand Prix win­ner suf­fered se­vere in­juries to his right arm in a rally crash in early ’11 that stopped him from rac­ing for sev­eral years.

Ku­bica, who now drives “70%” left­handed, has not raced a sin­gle-seater since the last of his 76 grand prix starts. But he has fi­nally landed the Wil­liams seat he had orig­i­nally tar­geted for this sea­son be­fore hav­ing to set­tle for a re­serve-driver role.

The 33-year-old reck­ons the rule changes be­ing in­tro­duced for the 2019 sea­son are com­ing at the “per­fect” time for his re­turn. The cars will fea­ture new wings, brake ducts and barge­boards as part of a raft of aero­dy­namic rule changes aimed at mak­ing it eas­ier for cars to fol­low each other closely. “I have quite a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence with rac­ing in F1, so I know what it takes to be a top F1 driver – I’m not scared of it,” said the Pole. “I know that it re­quires a lot of work and ded­i­ca­tion and I’m ready for it.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent story when you come test­ing at the end of the year, com­par­ing to the driv­ers who know the cars and tyres. In 2019 we all are start­ing from zero, so I’m not afraid that I have been away for eight years. I know what it takes. If I do my job well, I’m sure ev­ery­body will be happy.”

Team doubts un­der­stand­able

Ku­bica first re­turned to com­pet­i­tive ac­tion in ral­ly­ing be­fore mak­ing a cir­cuit-rac­ing come­back in the 2016 Mugello 12 Hours GT race. He then com­pleted a suc­cess­ful F1 test with Re­nault last year in a 2012 car be­fore driv­ing con­tem­po­rary Re­nault and Wil­liams ma­chin­ery in Hun­gary and Abu Dhabi re­spec­tively.

That left him close to seal­ing a Wil­liams race seat for this sea­son be­fore the team

“THIS DAY SHOWS THAT SOME­HOW NOTH­ING IS IM­POS­SI­BLE”

opted to run for­mer GP2 fron­trun­ner Sergey Sirotkin along­side Lance Stroll, but he has now done enough to prove to Wil­liams he can per­form in F1 again.

Ku­bica said he un­der­stood why peo­ple had doubts about him. “I see the point – it’s a story which prob­a­bly no­body has be­lieved,” said Ku­bica. “The only ones that prob­a­bly never gave up were my­self and the peo­ple around me, who I would like to thank. We all knew that it might be some­thing un­achiev­able and this day shows that some­how noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble.

“From a driv­ing point of view it’s very sim­ple. You just need to wait two months and you will see. If I think I will not be able to drive com­pet­i­tively fast I would not be here. Peo­ple see my lim­i­ta­tions and they ask how it’s pos­si­ble that I do it. I know that it’s hard to be­lieve but I think Wil­liams has seen it this year and I have seen it for the last 16 or 18 months.

“If I would be a team prin­ci­pal I would also have doubts.”

Sirotkin backer ‘sur­prised’

Ku­bica will re­place Sergey Sirotkin at Wil­liams. The Rus­sian driver’s backer SMP Rac­ing stated that it chose to split be­cause of Wil­liams’s poor per­for­mance and lacked faith that it would be a worth­while in­vest­ment next year.

“We were un­pleas­antly sur­prised by the team’s per­for­mance level at the start of the sea­son,” said SMP Rac­ing chief Boris Roten­berg in a state­ment.

“And the car’s de­vel­op­ment rate also turned out to be not high enough. De­spite this, Sergey man­aged a good sea­son in the cir­cum­stances, gave 100% and fully ac­com­plished the tasks set in front of him. We are sat­is­fied with his work and are cur­rently eval­u­at­ing op­tions for his rac­ing ca­reer go­ing for­ward.”

When Ku­bica was an­nounced as a Wil­liams driver on the eve of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Sirotkin said he could not be­lieve he was out of F1 for 2019. “I would strongly hope for [a sec­ond sea­son] and it looked like it was the case,” said Sirotkin. “It looked quite ob­vi­ous it would be the case for quite a while. But it’s F1 – it’s a dif­fi­cult world. To get suc­cess there are many, many dif­fer­ent pa­ram­e­ters which un­for­tu­nately most of the time aren’t up to the per­for­mance of the driver.”

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