The popular Polish racer Robert Kubica suffered critical injuries in an extra-curricular rallying crash prior to the 2011 season, injuries that left him initially fighting for his life. While he survived, he suffered severe injuries to his left hand that have taken years of rehabilitation and healing to become useable again. In the interim, Kubica returned to motorsport through the World Rally Championship, and has slowly been edging his way back towards single seaters and Formula 1 ever since.
He carried out a test in a 2012 Lotus, run by new owners Renault, at Paul Ricard in France and, apparently, didn’t struggle with any mobility issues, fitness, or pace. Having driven for the Enstone team in 2010, speculation has been rife that he is set for a return to a race seat, particularly as he is scheduled to take part in the official Hungarian test later this summer, driving a 2017 car.
Speaking at the Friday FIA Press Conference at Silverstone, Abiteboul went into some detail about why Renault are giving their former driver a shot at driving their current car: “The first test was nothing more than an opportunity for him to get back behind the steering wheel into a Formula One car – but there is a big caveat, is that it’s a Formula One car from 2012 with demo tyres, with V8 engine, normally-aspirated, fantastic noise but doesn’t exactly match the current F1 car. So, whatever we do is not quite representative. That second test, however, we sort-of walked more towards what could look like a plan in order to assess, to give both him and us the opportunity to assess a little bit more his limitation and his abilities.”
“What I can tell you is that he is still quick, he is still very consistent and, more importantly, he still has this energy, this drive, this sort of enthusiasm that he has always had, he always carried to him and to the team. Really too early to talk about next steps. I don’t want to add to the speculation. Right now the focus is on, y’know, getting the most out of the overall line-up and package that we have and then we’ll be thinking about 2018 in due course – which is not just now.”
Asked whether Kubica is capable of driving a modern day F1 car, Abiteboul was coy about answering one way or the other.
“I would not say that – and I don’t want to say yes or no. It’s not like a test that you’re passing at an exam. We’ve not seen any obvious road blocks. Having said that, you know, again testing in this circumstance and testing in a more modern car is something completely different. So, you know, again, this situation is complex. We are not doing that for PR purposes, even though we see that it is creating a lot of media expectation and focus. It’s not what we’re doing. We care so much more for Robert than this.”