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Patience pays off: Kubica agrees deal for Williams F1 race seat
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Posted By: Editor   |  21 Nov 2018   |  1:45 pm GMT  |  148 comments

Eight years after sustaining career-threatening injuries in a rallying crash in Italy, Robert Kubica is on the verge of making his F1 race comeback, according to well informed reports.

According to Autosport, the 33-year-old has agreed a deal to race in the second Williams seat in 2019 – replacing Sergey Sirotkin – alongside the already-confirmed George Russell.

Kubica came close to the seat a year ago, his candidacy pushed by Nico Rosberg, only to be thwarted by Sirotkin at the last minute.

Having never completely lost hope of a Formula One return, Poland’s only Grand Prix winner intensified his bid to reclaim a place on the grid over 2017 and 2018, and he is expected to be announced over the course of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, the scene of his last Formula One race in 2010.

Following his recovery after the rally crash, he returned to rallying, where he participated in the European Rally Championship and won the 2013 WRC2 championship, before turning his attention to other series.

He tested various machinery; GT, LMP1 and Formula E cars but, in 2017, he took part in some private tests for the Renault F1 team, whetting the fans’ appetites for a comeback.

He impressed during the test sessions, but when Renault decided not to proceed any further, Williams became an option.

Kubica initially looked a likely candidate for a 2018 Williams seat alongside Lance Stroll, but he lost out to Sergey Sirotkin and was given a test and reserve driver role for 2018, allowing Williams to continue to assess him.

Having taken part in most of the test days for Williams this year, the team have elected to give him the nod for a race seat in 2019. The deal also suggests that Kubica may have found some more sponsorship, which has become increasingly important to Williams in recent years.

A role as Ferrari’s test and simulator driver was believed to have also been available, but the call of a race seat – regardless of car pace – was always the priority for the Pole.

In his first Formula One career, Kubica was widely regarded as one of the best on the grid. He scored a podium in only his second Grand Prix for BMW Sauber before helping them become a race-winning outfit in 2008, when Kubica took his only victory at the Canadian Grand Prix.

BMW’s poor 2009 campaign encouraged the marque to pull out of F1, which prompted Kubica to switch to Renault for 2010. There, he continued to shine by taking podium finishes, resulting in him being linked with a switch to Ferrari in 2012.

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

How well do you think Kubica can do in his comeback year? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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1

Delighted, but also astonished by this. His right arm is clearly very weak compared to the left, but what a story. He’ll have nowhere to hide with George Russell across the garage, though, who I gather displays a maturity and professionalism beyond his years. Now we wait and hope Williams have identified and rectified the horrendous flaws that led to last season’s car.

2

I hope for Kubica’s sake FP1 isn’t an indication of next year…

3

SMP decided to withdraw their funding ,due to very poor performances and loss of faith in Williams lack of direction

4

I’m not quite sure what to make of that one. I’m sure SMP thought they were getting their name on a car that would be fighting for points at most races and will be disappointed about that. Equally, Sirotkin has had a solid debut season under the circumstances – clearly room for improvement in races, but he looks like a strong qualifier with potential to improve.

I’m not sure it makes sense to essentially defund his race drive though, when it’s not clear if or when he might get another.

5

I’m a Kubica fan and I will cheer for him. But I don’t think any driver on earth could win races after eight years off. Also, I wonder if he’s 100% recovered or only 99%? But again, I will cheer for him.

6

Absolutely brilliant news! It’s a fairy tale… also, I think it’s a good move for Williams. They have the best rookie available. They have the best and most experienced driver they could possibly have got… think you will see that car going from the back to the front of the mid-field during next year.

On, “I don’t think any driver on earth could win races after eight years off!”

A. It’s not been 8 years. He’s been testing, working in the sim. etc.
B. No driver on Earth has such determination.
C. Apart from any problems from his injuries, you don’t forget to drive. If he is fit, if his ‘adjustment’ to LH priority from RH has worked, what reason is there?
D. Lauda was fed up at the end of 1979 (driving around in circles). He came back in 1982 and won again, including the WC in 1984.

If the motivation is there, why not? Don’t think Robert will back off….!

The main reason for not winning races will be the car…

7

Congratulations Robert Kubica. A superb achievement returning to the sport after an eight season absence in terms of racing (not testing). A real story of perseverence and desire. And, of course, a great story for Formula 1 and Liberty Media; the human story and the fanbase Robert captures.

What fascinates me is the ‘optics’ of the driver line-up. I think, with hindsight, it was a problem for them having two pay-drivers this season. It created an image that they were selling drives to the highest bidder. This may have been overcome had the car allowed them to show their speed (personally, I thought the coverage of Sirotkin – who beat Kubica at the Abu Dhabi test last winter – in particular was unfair; Stroll is somewhat mercurial but very good on certain circuits and certain conditions). Alas the rubbish car exacerbated the issue – “oh dear! Williams seem to have lost the plot! (Again!)”.

Now they seem determined to press the reset button and start a new era. The technical departures this year firmly draw a line under the 2014-17 era (which, lest we forget, started very well for Team Willy before they gradually lost ground and then went too ambitious with the 2018 car). And the drivers chime with that. Russell and Kubica both have excellent reputations as well as racing CVs and, even though Robert is bringing money, this allows them to present the team as going back to basics: “We are Williams, we are Best-of-British [Russell]. And we are racers [both drivers]!”

Of course, this puts more pressure on the design team. It’s sort of ok to have a rubbish car if people aren’t sure how great the drivers are. If potentially real talents are languishing in sub-standard machinery, then that looks much worse (case study McLaren). Hopefully the FW42, whilst not pulling up trees, will be solid (like this year’s Sauber) and enable Russell to show his potential. If that’s the case then, whilst for me the jury is out on just how good Kubica will be next year, I think he could definitely have his moments.

8

It looks like Kubica is taking over from Alonso as everyone’s favourite driver. They have a lot in common. Both last won an F1 race years ago and have done nothing in F1 since. Both signed for a former world champion constructor that now fights for last position on the grid. Both have no chance of making an impact on the world championship. Even if Kubica beats Russell it’ll be said it’s because Russell is not fast enough. I hope he enjoys his return to F1 but I just can’t see him getting back to the success he had before his accident.

9

A good story. Fantastic achievement after what he has gone through.

10

To promote driver, back end team should change driver at every races.

11

This has got to be a new record surely for the longest career break ever taken in F1

12

Sirotkin joins the club of drivers who outperformed they teammates but are losing the place because someone can pay more. It looked as he really performed as one whole with the team this season, pity to see him go.

13

Good news from sporting and social point of view. Its also nice to have some older guys such as Kimi, Robert still racing the young guns. Their talent deserve it. Wish him the best.

14

Last year was a big risk being the first year of the Halo but now things have settled down it wont be the story every time Kubica is in the car.

Looks like Ocon is earmarked for the Mercedes seat in 2020 and williams were not keen on a 1 year deal.

15

It’s official and is great news..!!
We have new talent like Russel for 2019, Kimi staying in F1 and Robert driving too..!
They will surely put on a wonderful show.
If only someone could bring Kobayashi back as well…

16

It’s quit a story. They should make a movie about it. A good PR move by Williams and nothing more. Kubica, (I hope I am wrong though), will not be competative. Furthermore it is quit shamefull that they pushed Sirotkin aside. That guy brought in a lot of money and performed quit well this season. Well desperate times for Williams, so desperate choices I guess.

17

Word was Kubica was several grid places faster than the current Williams duo in the simulator. Hope that translates to the track.

18

people criticized williams for hiring sergey now you’re complaining they’re dumping him, they can’t win.
apparently it was sirokin’s sponsor pulling out because of williams poor performance rather than sirokin being pushed out

19

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that they probably aren’t the same people.

20

I never complain about paying drivers. Quit a lot of them are, one way or the other. I might complain about paying drivers who have no right to drive a F1 car due to their lack of talent. Sirotkin is not among them. I think he has talent and could well have developed into a very solid midfield driver. But hey, that is the F1 world for you.

21

Spot on. I think it’s been a while since we’ve had a pay driver in F1 who really shouldn’t have been there. We’ve had ones who weren’t really fast enough, but were capable of handling the machinery and not making a hazard of themselves (Haryanto, Chilton, Nakajima, Gutierrez etc). I think you have to go back to Sakon Yamamoto to find a driver who probably shouldn’t have been there at all. Interestingly, up until 2016 I might’ve put Marcus Ericsson in one of those categories but he upped his game in 2017 and leaves F1 as a capable lower midfielder.

I expected Sirotkin to be solid in 2018 and I think he has been, and that’s no mean feat with a poor, unpredictable car that he can’t have had the confidence to really push. Sergey’s race pace needs improvement, but his qualifying performances suggest he’s got the potential.

Whether he’ll get back into F1, I’m not sure. It doesn’t look good but the teams he’s worked with think highly of him for his application, technical understanding and level-headedness. I wouldn’t rule out a return.

22

Wow shock news…..

Williams hire a driver with ability rather than a rich daddy.

Seriously though Itll be intriguing to see how George Russell and Kubica compare. Hopefully they won’t have a dog of a car to drive.

23

Like others, I’m glad to see him back, hope he can be as good as everyone is expecting.

Kind of disappointed in Williams that they didn’t do this last year as Kubica would have been up against a known talent….Lance Stroll. That way we could have gauged what level he is at, if he destroyed Stroll (which I think he may have done) then we would all think yes he’s back. Next year against a rookie will be hard to compare.

24

Stroll is a funny one. I’m still not convinced he’s ready for F1, or if he ever truly will be. There’s clearly speed there, but he needs to sort his qualifying and rely less on his remarkably sharp race starts.

25

My Happy Happiness

26

Claire Williams’ Office.

Circa; Recent past.

Claire speaks.

“Robert, hi.

Do come in & sit down.

I’d like to have a little chat with you, as we’ve run into a little problem. . . well, two little problems really.

When Mercedes sent us our latest engine, fine little thing that it is, the box was a little bigger than usual & when we opened it, out rolled Paddy, & we think he got so drunk at his last Mercedes party that he broke his pencil & he’s designed us a dog of a car that we’ll have to put up with all year.

We phoned Mercedes to ask them to take him back, but when the phone was answered all we could hear was laughter!

Now, the other day in your test, we did like what we saw, but if we’re brutally honest you were a bit … err, rusty.

So here’s what I’m thinking.

We’ve had Paddy fitted with a dog shock collar & changed the lock on the liquor cabinet.

Young Mr Sirotkin performed ok on his test, & the Russian ruble is quite a nice colour this year, so how about we let the children play with Paddy’s dog this year & you hang around the factory to make sure we get a decent car that will fit you nicely for 2019.

What do you think of that, eh?

We’ll even let you push the button on Paddy’s shock collar.”

27

@ Mick: Simply hilarious, well written

29

You must have thought that sounded funny in your head…..

30

No, it sounded like Clair in my head

31

Unless Williams deliver a far better car in 2019 then they will still be last no matter who is driving. I hope they do and that Kubica can wipe Stroll’s nose in the proverbial.

32

I don’t really think this is a step forward for Williams. Maybe I’m wrong but I doubt Kubica has the raw pace to be a front-runner. For WIlliams, he does bring some money – and will ensure they get a lot of publicity, at least in the next few months.

33
Maranello glue factory

Yeah, I suspect this is about eyes on the team for the benefit of sponsorship. Nobody outside Putintopia gives a monkey’s about Sirotkin (who’s pre-f1 career was good but not outstanding) and his billionaire oligarch backers, so why would a sponsor want to sign up to a grossly underperforming team with a driver nobody cares about? I doubt the makers of novichock are looking to advertise…

However putting Kubica in the car alongside a promising high profile British rookie (and current f2 front runner) they have several stories that much of the media will be interested in not least kubica’s tale of fighting his way back from an almost career ending injury, what sponsor wouldn’t want to be asociated with such dogged determinationand grit? Even if he can only midfield the car it will be seen as a success. I’m actually looking forward to seeing what happens, so long as the team build a half decent car of course.

34

Like Owen = pure skepticism of the ‘stay in the arm-chair, I’ve never driven in anger in my life’ kind!

Williams don’t operate like that. Paddy Lowe, George Russell and Robert Kubica! What a line up… watch out! Could beat the Strolls at Racing Point and make a racing point!

35

I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve a nagging feeling that Williams have figured out what went wrong in their design process and know it’s going to hamper the 2019 car, too. A team is far more likely to take a chance (and a boatload of good PR) from Kubica if they’re expecting a ‘transitional’ year in which they won’t really be competitive.

36

Hopefully Williams would take advantage of Kubica’s PR potential to circumvent the setback that is, the loss the title sponsor. Lot many eyes would be on that Williams in 2019, than when Sirotkin was running it.

37

This is great new for fans that are adults and/or with half a brain.

An actual driver.

38

If true then fantastic, he will create a lift of interest for fans of Williams, and an added inspiration to the 2019 driver line up.

39

Well…..I don’t know if their aero is in the right place, but their hearts certainly are. I think Robert still is a formidable driver……..its up to Williams to put a chassis under him

40

Great to hear this news, I was waiting for this. Glad Kubica did not get the seat last year :-). Paddy come on give him a car to show what he can.

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