Robert Kubica was hailed as a star of the future after his first Formula 1 win in 2008. But that win in Canada was to be his only one, and less than three years later he was out of the sport following a horrific rallying accident ahead of the 2011 season. The Polish driver made a once unimaginable return to the pinnacle of motorsport in 2019.
|Full Name||Robert Józef Kubica|
|Date of Birth||7th December 1984|
|First Race||2006 Hungarian Grand Prix|
|First Win||2008 Canadian Grand Prix|
Born in Krakow, Poland, Robert Kubica caught the motor racing bug at the age of four, when his parents bought him a car capable of reaching 40km/h. It wasn’t long before the Polish youngster had outgrown the small off-road vehicle, so his father bought him a go-kart. He was too young to enter the Polish Karting Championship initially, but when he did, he won no less than six titles in three seasons. With little in the way of a junior racing ladder in Poland, Kubica went to Italy aged just thirteen to compete in the International Italian Junior Karting Championship in 1998, becoming the first non-Italian driver to win the title. That season, Kubica also placed second in the European Junior Karting Championship. Over the next three years, success followed in the International German Karting Championship and the Monaco Kart Cup, culminating in a fourth place finish in the Karting World Championship.
Kubica stepped up to Formula Renault 2000 in 2001, in which he scored his maiden pole position at the A1-Ring. He continued in the series in 2002, by which time he had become a member of Renault’s driver development programme. Aside from a seventh place overall finish in the Euro series, Kubica also won four races of the Italian Formula Renault 2000 series. A move to Formula Three followed in 2003, though the start of his season was delayed by a road accident which left him with a broken arm. Undeterred, Kubica won on his debut in the series; despite driving with a plastic brace and eighteen titanium bolts in his arm. He finished twelfth overall that year, and moved on to the factory Mercedes team for 2004, finishing seventh. The year was rounded off with a pole position and second place finish in the Macau Grand Prix.
In 2005, Kubica took the World Series by Renault championship with four victories, and finished almost forty points clear of his nearest rival. As a result of winning the championship, Kubica earned F1 tests with reigning champions Renault. Kubica became reserve driver for the BMW Sauber team in 2006, making Friday practice appearances. His services were required as Jacques Villeneuve was deemed unfit to drive in the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Pole beat his team-mate in qualifying and went on to finish seventh, only to be disqualified as his car was underweight. Nevertheless, Villeneuve’s permanent exit from F1 gave Kubica a seat for the rest of the season, and impressed from the very next race. He took his debut podium finish on only his third appearance in the BMW Sauber at the Italian Grand Prix.
Kubica’s 2007 season is best remembered for a huge crash at the Canadian Grand Prix, in which he was fortunate to escape without serious injury. He missed the U.S. Grand Prix as a precaution, but soon returned to impressive form for the rest of the season, scoring two fourth places in the French and British Grands Prix, and finishing sixth in the Drivers’ Championship. Arguably his finest season followed in 2008, as he became the first Polish driver to start from pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix and the first to win a race at the Canadian Grand Prix, one year on from his crash. Further podium finishes followed in Valencia, Monza and Fuji and he was in the title hunt until the closing stages, eventually finishing fourth. A final year at BMW Sauber followed in 2009. The car was largely uncompetitive for the first half of the season, with Kubica failing to score in the first six races. The highlight of his year was a second place finish in the Brazilian Grand Prix – his only visit to the rostrum that season.
Kubica partnered Vitaly Petrov at Renault for 2010, in a season where he out-qualified his team-mate at all but two of the nineteen races. He finished as runner-up in the Australian Grand Prix, before taking a front row start in Monaco and finishing third, and he finished third again at the Belgian Grand Prix. An eighth place finish in the championship was a sign that Kubica had extracted everything from the car. Rumours about a drive with Ferrari swirled – with Kubica later confirming that he had signed for Ferrari for the 2012 season – but the Pole stayed at Renault for 2011. At least, he intended to.
Four days after testing the new car for the first time, Kubica suffered a near-life-ending crash on the first stage of the Ronde di Andora rally. His severe injuries, which included compound fractures to his right elbow, shoulder and leg and, most worryingly, the partial amputation of his right forearm, saw him require extensive surgery. Kubica finally left hospital in April 2011 to continue his recuperation at home.
His first race appearance since his accident came in September 2012, when he competed in the Ronde Gomitolo Di Lana rally, which he won. The following year, he competed in the World Rally-2 Championship, winning the series with five victories. Kubica took part in the World Rally Championship in 2014, where he finished in sixteenth place overall. A number of GT races followed in 2016 and he later cancelled plans to appear in the World Endurance Championship for 2017.
Instead, Kubica began to focus on a return to Formula 1. He’d previously partaken in simulator tests with Mercedes in 2013, where he’d concluded that a return to F1 would be ‘nearly impossible’ due to the limitations with his right arm. Nevertheless, in June 2017, Kubica was given a private test with the Renault team, in which he drove their 2012 car. Further mileage with Renault followed at a test after the Hungarian Grand Prix, where he finished fourth fastest. He then drove Williams’ cars at Silverstone and Hungary in October, and, when Felipe Massa announced his retirement, Kubica became one of the favourites to step up to a race seat for 2018. He missed out on the seat to Sergey Sirotkin, but instead became the team’s reserve driver, and took part in a number of practice sessions throughout the 2018 season.
Finally, ahead of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, Robert Kubica was confirmed as a Williams driver for 2019. The return which once seemed impossible is becoming a reality for Kubica in 2019, who said he’d be ‘more like a rookie’ on his return, given how much F1 has changed since his last race eight years ago.
KUBICA IN 2019
Robert Kubica’s year at Williams turned out not be a fairytale. The argument on whether Kubica was still the driver he was ten years ago will go on, but the simple fact is that he never had the opportunity to show his skills in wheel-to-wheel battles. Given Williams’ uncompetitive car, the only car he really had to fight with was his team-mate.
There were some strengths to Kubica’s season. His starts saw him end the first lap ahead of his team-mate more often that not – but the fact that he qualified behind George Russell at every round of the season is telling. Furthermore, he went on to finish behind his team-mate in sixteen of this year’s eighteen races that both Williams cars completed.
Kubica scored Williams’ only point of the season in Germany, but that was the only time he appeared anywhere near the points paying positions. Nevertheless, the fact that Kubica was able to return to the pinnacle of motorsport remains a remarkable feat; even if the year didn’t end in the glory that he and his passionate fans would have hoped. Read more: Robert Kubica’s 2019 Season in Stats.
ROBERT KUBICA’S F1 RECORD
|Year||Team||Final Position||Points Scored||Wins||Poles||Podiums|