Kubica back in an F1 car after six years away
Pole took part at Goodwood Festival of Speed
It was a sight that motorsport fans thought they would never see again – Robert Kubica back in an F1 car.
But with two outings in the space of four weeks – a private test with the Renault F1 team at Valencia in June followed by an appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend – hopes are rising that the Pole could make a shock return to the pinnacle of motorsport.
Renault confirmed on Thursday that Kubica, 32, will now take part in a second test “to assess his capabilities to return to the highest level of competition,” the French team said in a statement.
The test will take place at France’s Circuit Paul Ricard – home to the 2018 French Grand Prix – at an as yet unspecified date.
Kubica’s F1 career was cut short following a serious rally crash in February 2011 which resulted in him requiring a partial amputation of his right forearm.
“Of course I have the limitations with my body, with my arm, but I had a very good feeling and I had very good feedback in Valencia,” Kubica told CNN at Goodwood.
“We didn’t know what to expect. I had been away from an F1 car for six years but what I felt there was very, very promising and I was very surprised how well things went,” he added.
“There were a lot of emotions. The most important highlight was that I got in the car and I felt very comfortable and that I got up to a good level very, very fast.
“I am happy to be back in an F1 car.”
Speaking to reporters at Goodwood, Kubica says he now rates his chances of an F1 return at 80-90%, but it remains to be seen what exactly a “return” really means.
“The recent test showed that he’d lost none of his will to win or his feel for the car,” veteran F1 journalist Maurice Hamilton told CNN.
“The thought that Renault are giving him another test has made him think that there’s a good chance he could be in F1.
“What being in F1 means is unclear – it could be that he does testing for them at which he would be really, really good.
“Will he be a driver? I don’t rule it out but they will have to think long and hard about it, because of his age and F1 is the ultimate – you’re up against the best in the world and you’ve got to be 100%. There are still a few question marks.”
Kubica spent five years in F1 – four at the Sauber team before switching to Renault in 2010. In all, he raced 76 times, finished on the podium 12 times, and won his maiden race at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix – 12 months after suffering a horrific crash in Montreal.
There is a huge amount of affection among motorsport fans for Kubica and Hamilton speaks glowingly of him – the racing driver and the man.
“There is no side to him – he was never political, he just got on with the racing. I think people just warm to him for being a very humble modest guy with massive talent,” Hamilton said.
“The tragedy of Kubica is his potential was enormous and he was fantastic – one of the really gifted guys.
“He had the natural ability that the Lewis Hamilton’s of this world have got – the affinity with the car … he could make it talk. He had this incredible flair that is very hard to define but you could see it.”
During Kubica’s recent appearance at Goodwood there were long queues for autographs and selfies with the Pole.
“For sure, I am very surprised how many people are following me,” he said.
“I have been out of Formula One for many years but hopefully they remember some of my good driving from the past and I appreciate their support.”
Whatever the future holds, be it in a rally car or back on the F1 grid, Kubica will always be held in high regard by fans and colleagues alike.
“The Renault team loved him,” Hamilton said of Kubica’s solitary season racing for the French team in 2010. “A: because he was quick, B: because his feedback was tremendous and C: he never let them down.”