Having the current World champion in your corner is always nice but will Nico Rosberg’s support lead to Robert Kubica completing a fairytale return to Formula 1?
It’s amazing that Kubica has even got to this stage, where he has a legitimate shot at competing in F1 next season just six years after suffering life-threatening injures in a huge rally crash.
The Pole, who underwent a partial amputation of his right arm, later defied the odds to return to rallying and earlier this season was allowed to drive a 2012 Lotus F1 car as part of Renault’s testing programme.
The 32-year-old’s big chance to impress – and put a lot of doubts to bed – came last month when he returned to a modern Formula 1 car for the first time in six-and-a-half years to test for Renault at Hungaroring.
Some scoffed at the thought of Kubica stepping into a current F1 machine, so different from those he had been used to competing in many years before for BMW Sauber and Renault.
— Bojan Vrbnjak (@BVrbnjak) September 5, 2017
The naysayers described it as a PR stunt, an excuse for Renault and F1 to get a big of good press ahead of the summer break. But the results speak for themselves. Kubica completed a mixed test programme with long runs, short runs and completed a total of 142 laps – the equivalent of two full races.
While it’s always difficult to accurately compare test times to those set in qualifying and actual races, it’s clear to see that Kubica did not do badly. In fact, he impressed.
His fastest time was a 1:18:952 which, while half a second slower that Jolyon Palmer in qualifying, showed promise. It’s important to note that Robert Kubica is, realistically, a rookie again. F1 cars have changed a lot over the past five or so years so it will take time for him to get up to speed.
Robert Kubica went fourth fastest on his return to official Formula 1 testing in Hungary with Renault, as Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel set th… pic.twitter.com/SM6B1i6hka
— CoolCoolDay パトリック (@coolcoolday) August 2, 2017
In terms of long runs, Kubica went out for 16 laps at one stage and set an average time of 1:22:101 – faster than Palmer and Nico Hulkenberg’s final stints in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
At the very least, Kubica has shown he would be competitive if asked to drive full-time in Formula 1. People will ask if it’s too soon but the Pole seems to be in the right place mentally.
The one thing he needs is for a team to take a chance on him. Despite his impressive showing in Hungary, Renault decided to take the safer option and announced Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz would replace Palmer.
— Robert Kubica Klub (@TOMek_RK_Klub) September 18, 2017
Realistically Williams is the only team with a seat available and Kubica could well end up fighting Palmer for the right to partner rookie Lance Stroll.
The Rosberg Effect
This is where Nico Rosberg could play a vital role. The World champion is a former Williams driver, still has plenty of pull in the paddock and has joined Kubica’s management team as he looks to complete an unlikely return to the grid.
“Robert and Lewis (Hamilton) are the fastest I ever raced against. Therefore, I am thrilled to join forces with Robert on his journey back to racing in Formula 1.”
– Nico Rosberg
If Williams do decide to go with Robert Kubica next season, it will be one of the best sporting comebacks ever made.
Gear up Hollywood – the finest script you’ve ever seen may well be writing itself as we speak.