By Anthony Rowlinson
Let’s never get used to watching Robert Kubica drive an F1 car again. Let’s always remember that while seeing him at the wheel and set faster times than his team mates in FP1 at Barcelona, is in some ways unsurprising, given the scale of his natural talent, in others it is simply staggering.
The tale of his recovery from a body-shattering, near-fatal accident in early 2011 has been well documented, but that fact alone should never make it less extraordinary – simply more familiar.
And in Kubica’s case the familiarity should never engender contempt; rather something more like sheer, unvarnished admiration. His return to competitive involvement in Formula 1, as Williams’s test and reserve driver, is a comeback to rank alongside any in sport.
And it doesn’t finish here.
His Spain FP1 outing – his first participation in an F1 race weekend since the 2010 Abu Dhabi GP – was one of three scheduled for this season, replacing Sergey Sirotkin. He was also due to take part in both Barcelona test days, then test again at the end of the year, in Abu Dhabi.
He acknowledges that not being able to drive the Williams FW41 as frequently as its race drivers is hindering the fluency of his performance. But then he fixes me with that familiar direct-but-twinkly gaze and asserts: “I could make a comeback now. I am ready.”
There’s only one way to test the veracity of that statement, of course, and as both Williams’ race drivers are heavily funded by billionaire fathers, their drives must be considered secure.
Increasingly, though, as the aerodynamic shortcomings of the woeful FW41 become ever more apparent, and the need for a driver who can lead a development direction ever more urgent, the case for broadening Kubica’s role becomes more compelling.
It’s not simply a question of being able to turn a quick lap, though finishing a session 1.3s faster than Lance Stroll, despite not having driven the car since a pre-season test in March, can do nothing to harm Kubica’s confidence, nor perceptions of his abilities. There’s the wider matter of what value he might be able to offer Williams in a pretty desperate hour.
“I know my value,” he says. “I don’t have to look at lap times. I know it sounds strange, but often people forget that motorsport is a sport. All sportsmen are practising and training as often as possible. I know that if I had a chance to drive the car every week like permanent race drivers, there is even more room to improve. I think already now I have seen it in winter testing. When I jumped in again now after two months, I have seen it again. In the end, whatever is missing is only a question because I’m doing it every two months – if something is missing.”
Kubica’s F1 return has been dismissed in some quarters as ‘unrealistic’ or as ‘a nice story for motorsport romantics’. But if he keeps delivering performances like he did in Spain, the cold, hard facts will speak for themselves.
All Images: Motorsport Images
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