Robert Kubica set for F1 return with Williams next year

Updated: Nov 23, 2018, 09:08 IST | Abhishek Takle

The Pole, who will turn 34 next month, spent the 2018 season as a development driver for the former champions and will race alongside Mercedes-backed rookie George Russell with the pairing offering Williams a mix of youth and experience

Robert Kubica
Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica will make a fairytale return to Formula One next season with Williams eight years after sustaining life-threatening injuries in a rally crash including a partially severed right arm, the team said on Thursday.

The Pole, who will turn 34 next month, spent the 2018 season as a development driver for the former champions and will race alongside Mercedes-backed rookie George Russell with the pairing offering Williams a mix of youth and experience.

"I understand and I see the point that it's a story which probably nobody has believed," Kubica told reporters, who clapped as he made his entrance, at the Yas Marina track on Thursday afternoon. "And the only one who probably never gave up was myself and the people around me… we all knew that it might be something not achievable. "This day shows that somehow nothing is impossible."

Kubica, winner of the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix who was seen as an exceptional talent and a champion-in-waiting, was competing in a minor rally in Italy on the eve of the 2011 season when he crashed.

A guardrail penetrated his car in the accident which caused the injuries that required him to undergo multiple surgeries. Kubica returned to rallying in 2012 but it wasn't until last year that an F1 comeback became a realistic possibility. The Pole was linked to a return with Renault after taking part in several tests with the team. When that opportunity fell through, Kubica set his sights on making a comeback with Williams.

He took drove in the post-season test at Abu Dhabi with the team but was passed over for Russian Sergey Sirotkin and offered the test and reserve driver role instead, taking part in practice sessions for the Spanish and Austrian Grands Prix. "His intelligence in the cockpit, but also his engineering capability as well, we believe, is going to really help us drive this team forward as we start a new chapter for Williams in 2019," said Williams deputy team principal Claire.

"He knows everybody in the team, he gets on well with everybody in the team, he's dedicated, he spends a lot of time back in the factory… and so for me I think now he's absolutely ready." Williams have endured a trying season with an uncompetitive car and are set to finish dead last in the constructors' championship this season and they will have to call upon all of Kubica's experience to move up the field next season. Kubica will make his F1 comeback at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 17th next year.

Before then, there's still this season's finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix left to go. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have already wrapped up both the drivers' and constructors' titles and there's little to fight for other than bragging rights. But there are plenty of farewells to be said.

Fernando Alonso is set to retire from F1 following Sunday's race. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari's last world champion, will leave the Italian team for Sauber while Daniel Ricciardo is set to move from Red Bull to Renault. "So far I think it's a normal weekend," said Alonso, who competed for Toyota in the World Endurance Championship last weekend in Shanghai.

"I've been racing last weekend in Shanghai and I'm not probably into the mood yet of this final race. It feels OK right now. As I said, it's going to be special, emotional, and hopefully a good one.

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