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
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