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F1 Summer Break 2018
Weekend Debate: Robert Kubica’s F1 return performances: Hard to ignore?
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Posted By: Editor   |  19 May 2018   |  7:30 pm GMT  |  105 comments

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
What are your thoughts on the latest steps in Robert Kubica’s bid to return to a full-time Formula One drive? Leave your comments below.

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1

Shout out to the year 2049, when we get to see another Lotus-Renault vs Lotus-Caterham legal saga between two billionaires with no previous affiliation to the now defunct Williams F1 team fight over the naming rights for a couple of years. Looking forward to the return of some of those 80s-90s Williams liveries as the two billionaire try and slight different tactics to slight each other. It’ll also be nice to see Claire come back into the public spotlight after I’m guessing something like 15 years out of the sport to pick which team she thinks is a better bet to sanction as ‘the real Williams’ as well.

2
Jonathan Barker

Williams stick him in the car now. As a long time fan of the team it is agony watching two average drivers sink the team to an all time low. Stick Kubica in before it’s too late and whilst he is still interested in driving for you. Don’t miss this chance to claw back some level of decency in the sport.

3
Tornillo Amarillo

Kubica should apply for a seat to a team not needing money, a top 5 team. Period.

4

If Robert wanted to race badly enough , would he not head over to another Formula , or WEC for example , maybe he’s happy with what he’s got ?

5

I know it’s only testing BUT

Sirotkin’s best time in all Barcelona tests this year – 1:19.189 on softs

Kubica – 1:19.253 on hyper softs.

Stroll – 1:19.954 on softs.

Fp1 at Spain

Stroll 1;22.756

Kubica: 1:21.510

Fp2 at Spain

Stroll 1:21.556

Sirotkin: 1:22.060

Fp3 at Spain

Sirotkin: 1:19.909

Stroll: 1:19.900

Why is it being said that Kubica is clearly faster than the other two?

6

Why, because we can’t compare times in different sessions on different days. track and weather conditions change too much for that simple comparison. Especially as the rubber gets put down and the dust cleared from FP1 on Friday morning to Q3 on Saturday afternoon. The fact is Kubica was faster than whoever was in the other Williams when they ran in the same session, same track same conditions. That’s why he’s faster, clearly a lot faster.

7

I’d agree that times are not directly comparable. But do we know that, for example, in FP1 in Spain Kubica and Stroll ran with the same fuel load, same setup, same tyres etc?

My point is that there’s nothing obvious in the numbers that scream that Kubica is quicker.

8

really?

===Fp1 at Spain

Stroll 1;22.756

Kubica: 1:21.510==

That’s a lot!

9
Kenny Carwash

If you watched the session, you’d know that Kubica and Stroll had the same tyres and when they were on track together, Stroll was setting faster times. Then Stroll spun off and missed the rest of the session, while Kubica benefited from track evolution and reducing fuel loads to set a quicker time.

The key times for me are from the last day of the tyre test – Kubica was just under half a second faster than Sirotkin, but Sirotkin’s time was set on softs while Kubica was on hypersofts. Kubica’s time was right near the end of the day on a rubbered-in track, too.

As in pre-season testing, Kubica just doesn’t look quick enough compared to Sirotkin once tyre compounds are factored in.

10

Same tyres? Same tests? Same fuel loads. What if Stroll was testing race pace with a full load on mediums and Kubica was running light on softs?

I understand that it could have been the other way around, but was it?

Williams are right about one thing: Simply looking at times with out considering other factors tells us nothing.

I don’t see compelling evidence that Kubica is significantly faster. Did Renault see such evidence? Did anybody?

11

Don’t be ridiculous, you can’t compare times from different sessions, there were different track conditions, different times of day, etc. Also Robert did not drive this car every other week like regular drivers. The fact is he was 1,2 s faster than Stroll in FP1, and Stroll is a better driver than Sirotkin, he’s proven that in every race so far. Also the car was not set up to Robert’s liking, but he still was over a second faster. And lastly, Robert wasn’t there to get the best lap times, but to test. gather feedback and help the team with this pos of a car.

12
Kenny Carwash

Stroll crashed in that session and had been slightly quicker than Kubica up to that point. He went on to set faster times as the track rubbered-in and his fuel load went down. The 1.2s margin is meaningless.

13

Are you suggesting that times from FP1, FP2 and FP3 are comparable at face value?

14

Well if they’re not, then how does anybody know who was faster?

My point is that I don’t see compelling evidence that Kubica is significantly quicker.

15

Maybe, just maybe you need a pair of new glasses.

16

Remember Archie Scott Brown.

17

Stick Kubica in and G Russell in the cars and drop both Rich Kids Williams.

18

As much as I like Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso should bring in Kubica to help develop the Honda engine for the rest of the year.

Win-win.

19
Kenny Carwash

It pains me to say it, but I’m just not sure Brendon is F1 material. If Nobuharu Matsushita has a decent season in Super Formula, then I reckon he’ll replace Hartley. Maybe even before the season’s out, like Gasly did.

20

A once proud winning team has to rely on two pay drivers while having a test driver clearly superior to both…. there is no greater example of the state of F1 then this.

21

The current Williams would be a waste of Kubica’s talent…

… sad, but true.

22

To all of you speaking about Rosberg pulling off “Kubica comeback project” – Robert has already explained this situation in few different interviews, so why dont you even bother to verify what does he have to say about it and put your dummy speculations up here?

He said that they are still in touch with Nico, but at this moment there is no need to work on anything as hard as they did during the winter.

Which probably means Rosberg helped him to get into Williams, in the position he currently is hired (reserve driver), but he probably has one year deal and untill its over there’s not much they can work on + no other team is close to changing the driver line-up after few first races.

23

McLaren need to get Vandoorne out and Kubica in. Pronto

24
Kenny Carwash

Vandoorne is doing pretty well, really, but a driver of Alonso’s calibre and experience is always going to blow away an inexperienced teammate in a car as bad as the McLaren has been. Vandoorne’s junior record was outstanding and his banzai charge from last to 9th in Baku underlined that.

25
Tornillo Amarillo

Latifi in is way-Canadian style? 🙂

26

Why? Vandoorne has space to get better and better for years to come. Kubica will offer nothing that Nando doesn’t already and is already 33 and will be 34 by the start of next year. Literally no point in giving him a drive.

27

Go for it Robert.

28

It is a bit of a hype which comes back every time he sit’s in a F1 car. I wonder though if it is justified. Yup, i really sympathize for the guy and it’s a great story too, but is he really up to the challenge? To say in other words, does he really deserve a seat? Tbh I have ome doubts, I guess Renault had their reasons not to employ him and this after thorough testing mind you. But at Williams, yeah I agree, it would be beneficial for Williams. Not only to for car development, but his marketing value is huge at the moment and Williams desperately needs some good press and build up some lost goodwill with the fans. Will it happen, I seriously doubt it. Money talks doesn’t it?

29

i used to be a fan of williams in the ’70 and 80’s. not anymore. all williams’ problems are self inflicted. the company no longer has what it takes to compete in f1. this is a failure of senior management. teams like williams and mclaren were seduced by bernies millions and just lost the plot. at least mclaren seem to be trying to turn its situation around. williams refuse to adapt. claire williams is destroying the very thing she claims to love.

30

I wish Robert well,

& I sincerely hope he gets a drive, but here’s how it should be.

Paddy Lowe gets a kick up the arse & told to fix it. Stroll & Sirotkin share the other car on alternating weekends.

Kubica drives at every opportunity, & provides the feedback for the engineers to sort it out, & starts making big points on the leaders.

Max keeps on randomly taking people out now & then, while the Mercedes boys have, . . . . the occasional off day. The odd smoking Ferrari makes Ricciardo think he’s still in with a chance of the title until Kimi says, “Screw this. I’m out at the years end.” Then a Prancing Horse text lands in Riccardo’s email, & suddenly he ‘d have a balls out Renault lasting about 80 miles per race.

As misfortune fall on those in front, Kubica steers around the incidents, on the grass if necessary, saying “Don’t forget I’m a rally driver too”, & closes in on the championship lead.

The stupid 3 engine rule knocks out enough people for Robert to go on & win the title, so that Lewis & Seb will have to argue over number 5 in 2019. Robert Kubica gets a bigger seat in 2019, & Stroll & Sirotkin can have their car’s back every weekend, & then we can see what their money can do in a championship winning car.

Well, this is how it could be.

But this is how much, I wish Robert well.

31

As a fan of F1 from the Mansell years in the mid eighties, this is so sad to see a once magnificent team reduced to pay drivers and the problems they appear to have currently. Could having Kubica in the car at a couple of events pay dividends? Maybe Canada and Silverstone?

32

It’s gutting that it’s come to this. Who would have thought it?

33

Williams has been skidding for some time. Of old, they treated drivers as completely interchangeable: who drove didn’t matter to Sir Frank and Patrick Head. I guess they felt that easy to do in the days when they had a definitively superior car/engine package. A good enough car (at least as Williams seemed to approach it) rendered who drove it irrelevant (hence dumping the reigning WDC from one season to the next).

But 20 years have gone since Williams had anything like such an advantage (and remember, Schumacher ran them close in ‘96 and ‘97, when Williams last won titles, just the same). Now their car, quite clearly, has fundamental flaws that essentially render who drives irrelevant. Things are exactly 180 degrees from how FW treated Damon Hill. Even if an improvement over Stroll and Sirotkin, Kubica at the wheel cannot solve these problems, certainly not quickly. Car being fundamentally flawed, it could be Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel, etc driving and the results would still rarely trouble mediocrity before next season.

34
Kenny Carwash

As soon as they slipped back in 2015 after a strong 2014, I feared it was the start of another major decline. It’s hard to see the way back from here. Lowe has got it badly wrong and even if they replace him it will be 2020 before they can make a decent car again. Unless they get lucky and the car only has one fundamental, and fixable, problem.

35

If he says he is back to the level he was before the accident, if the times suggest he is back to that level, if the craft suggests he is back to that level (have a look at onboard of every spin in F1 this season and identify the single driver most calm and in control) than he is back.

Whoever has the guts to get him in mid-season, will be getting a driver of ability otherwise out of their league, with some financial backing, with an unrivalled PR value.

Williams want to eat the cookie and have it too, but it doesn’t work. Kubica cannot lead car development driving every 2 months, and PR side backfires more often than not with their ‘hired solely on performance’ pay driver embarrassing himself every weekend.

Williams are in big trouble as once you put yourself in position where you need 2 pay drivers to close the budget, there is no coming back. You lose prize money, you lose sponsors, you become fully reliant on rich spoilt brats and their questionable character daddies / benefactors. 2019 may be their last chance to break that trend and salvage the team.

36

@ redline

Oh no, I disagree for there must have been a good reason for Rosberg to bail out on Kubica because one doesn’t toss out a winning ticket

37

@ aveli

I wouldn’t say Rosberg has achieved his goal in regards to Kubica because the goal was to get Kubica a permanent seat on the grid

38

It’s sad he seems to be faster than both permanent drivers, and sitting on the sidelines. He is however steering one handed if you see the onboard shots. Could he get around the Monaco hairpin steering like that? Come on Marko, get him in the Torro Rosso to replace one of those two duds, and do your public perosona the world of good, or even better for Haas to dump Grosjean and try him.

39

Williams = paying the bills before trying to win races. This thinking has snowballed ever since the first day they had it. It should have been snuffed out that day. Now look at them.

If Robert’s lap times are comparative to what tyres/programs the poor little rich boys where on. Someone should give him a seat and see how ho goes in a race/season.

40

James, what tire compounds did he use while delivering 1.3 sec faster lap than Stroll. We could use some data, analysis without data is nothing but hearsay.

41

Renault had an option on him which they didn’t take up, and after he’d done on-track testing for them. Why? He had to be faster than Palmer and physically able to race.

.

42

Bobster, to be fair Renault passed Robert over in favour of Hulkenberg and Sainz. This is understandable as they are both good drivers with more recent experience than Robert. Williams passed him over in favour of Stroll and Sirotkin who have one seasons experience between them and couldn’t get a drive on merit.

43

Renault’s alternatives were Hulkenberg and Sainz, Williams’ alternatives are Stroll and Sirotkin, that’s a much lower bar to hurdle.

44

Stroll already had a contract. So it was a two way contest – Sirotkin V Kubica. But yes, Renault had better options than Williams.

45

This article just stinks of tabloid!

I come to this website for in depth analysis and insights. Huge RK fan too.

How about confirming or denying whether or not RK had new parts during the test that LS didn’t?

Love this site. But please no sensationalism and superficial facts!

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