Robert Kubica’s comeback continues to gather pace, after a second test this week in Paul Ricard, France in a 2012 car using controlled demonstration tyres. Once again he was very fast and consistent and there is a growing expectation around a possible return to F1 competition; some people are even suggesting that he could be set to return in Spa after the summer break in place of Jolyon Palmer. With the many high speed, high load corners, that would be quite a challenge as a race to come back for a man whose right arm was almost severed in a rally accident in 2011 and who still does not have the strength he had.
Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul yesterday declined to confirm whether Kubica would take part in the test using 2017 cars which follows the Hungary GP, ahead of the summer shotdown, but that would be the logical step. If Renault has another driver in mind for the second half of 2017 to replace Palmer and that driver is not a current F1 driver, then that test would be the time to let him get some mileage.
Pascal Wehrlein was being lined up for the seat according to some French and German sources, but that possibility seems to have receded with the arrival of Fred Vasseur as team boss at Sauber.
The tests have all been motivated by Kubica himself and Abiteboul was at pains to point out that this is not a PR stunt, even if they have been surprised by how much positive coverage the comeback journey has given the brand and how much affection there still is with F1 fans for the Pole.
Abiteboul gave a positive report of Kubica’s test performances,
“He is still quick, he is still very consistent and, more importantly, he still has this energy, this drive, this sort of enthusiasm that he has always had, he always carried to him and to the team, ” said the Frenchman.
“The first test was nothing more than an opportunity for him to get back behind the steering wheel into a Formula One car – but there is a big caveat, is that it’s a Formula One car from 2012 with demo tyres, with V8 engine, normally-aspirated, fantastic noise but doesn’t exactly match the current F1 car. So, whatever we do is not quite representative.
“That second test, however, we sort-of walked more towards what could look like a plan in order to assess, to give both him and us the opportunity to assess a little bit more his limitation and his abilities.
“What I can tell you is that Really too early to talk about next steps. I don’t want to add to the speculation. Right now the focus is on, y’know, getting the most out of the overall line-up and package that we have and then we’ll be thinking about 2018 in due course – which is not just now.
Asked by JA whether the evaluation has shown that he is capable of racing a Formula One car, Abiteboul said,
“I would not say that.
“And I don’t want to say yes or no. It’s not like a test that you’re passing at an exam. We’ve not seen any obvious road blocks. Having said that, you know, again testing in this circumstance and testing in a more modern car is something completely different.
“So, you know, again, this situation is complex. We are not doing that for PR purposes, even though we see that it is creating a lot of media expectation and focus. It’s not what we’re doing. We care so much more for Robert than this.”
What do you think of Robert Kubica’s progress so far and what do you read into Abiteboul’s comments? Leave your comments below