Robert Kubica at a press conference with Acronis.

Kubica comeback the ‘feel good’ story of the 2018 season

During an intoxicating and captivating Formula One season that has sometimes been blighted by bitter rivalry and unsavoury post-race incident, it is fair to say that before the sun sets in Abu Dhabi, there will be a warm glow around the paddock.

As the sport bids farewell to one of the great drivers of his era in Fernando Alonso, it also welcomes back a driver in 2019 who was arguably at the peak of his powers before a tragic rally accident cut short his F1 career.

That driver is Robert Kubica. The popular Pole, who epitomises the Acronis company ethos of ‘never give up’, has been fulfilling the crucial role of test and reserve driver for the Williams team since the start of the season.

Such was the magnitude of his accident back in 2011, many leading news and sporting websites have branded his appointment as one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sport. Yes, we’re talking Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods and Kim Clijsters stuff here. But Kubica arguably had to battle harder than any of those great athletes in returning to the sport he loves.

A driver who was already a grand prix winner with BMW Sauber and set for stardom after an impressive stint with Renault, Kubica was contracted to Ferrari for the 2012 season, as Alonso’s teammate. But all this disintegrated when a rally crash during the Ronde di Andora rally almost cost him his life.

Several years of operations and painful rehabilitation followed, but this did not deter an extraordinary man from his end goal. To get back in an F1 car and compete at the top table of the pinnacle of motorsport once again.

Motorsport Tech was delighted to be able to talk to Robert during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend and gained a very exclusive insight into the psyche of what makes a true winner. A true champion.

“During that time, one of the things that I really missed is the actual feeling of driving a race car,” said Kubica. “Of course, Formula One is the highest category of motorsport and has the best cars you can drive on this planet. But as a driver, you enjoy the feeling and confidence of knowing that no matter what car you drive, you can bring it to the limit. It’s about the rush of exploring the maximum of what the current package can deliver — the tyres, engine, and overall performance.

“As my story goes, there was a point in my life when I had very little to do with racing. Following the accident, I had to focus on recovery as best as I could. At that point, it was a personal challenge. A lot of things went through my mind at that stage. I forced myself to stay focused. During situations like that, your brain tends to calibrate very quickly. There was no time for regrets. I was focussing on setting realistic challenges: first of all, to recover as best as I could and then gradually come back to where I am now.”

Another stint in rallying followed and he proved quick yet again, winning his first event by over a minute before stints in GT3 and LMP1 preceded F1 tests with both Renault and Williams. The return to the top table was a long and arduous but eventually complete with the Abu Dhabi announcement.

Robert Kubica at a press conference with Acronis.
Robert Kubica at a press conference with Acronis during the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“Basically, at the core of everything is passion,” added Kubica. “I’ve had a huge passion for motorsport since I was a kid. I started with karting, then I moved to single-seaters, and finally I achieved my dream goal of making it to Formula One. It’s the highest category of motorsport in the world. Unfortunately, I then suffered an accident during a Rally event in 2011 and all of what I was dreaming of and working for suddenly disappeared in one way or another. I found myself with quite a bad injury to recuperate from.

“But I think the reason you continue, despite the horrendous time, what drives you to try and come back, try to recover and drive again, is passion for what you do.”

Getting back into the ultra-competitive world of F1 racing would appear to be a win for any driver but for the remarkable Kubica, having been through all he has been through, it is clearly only job half done and he has bigger aspirations than that.

It is with little wonder, then, that the motorsport community have flocked around this remarkable example of courage and self-belief.

But nothing in this cutthroat world of F1 is ever judged on sympathy. And that’s not the reason that Kubica has his seat back. In an industry where results count for millions of dollars, a driver must be fast.

And that really will be the key measure in 2019. With Williams having newly-crowned F2 champion George Russell alongside him, the team has arguably the most exciting driver line-up in the paddock. It’s exciting times indeed for this most popular of teams. Bring on 2019!

 

Fraser Masefield

Fraser Masefield

Son of a knight, relative of a poet laureate, sports editor and published author.

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