Robert Kubica will be a “very good choice” for the 2018 Williams seat if he can prove he is physically capable to make a full-time return to Formula 1, according to this week’s F1 Report guests.
Kubica has not raced in F1 since suffering career-changing injuries in a rally crash in 2011, but this year has stepped up his attempts to make a comeback.
The 32-year-old ran in three tests with former team Renault over the summer, while he has already driven Williams’ 2014 car twice. The Pole is now expected to drive their 2017 car on one of their two days testing Pirelli tyres in Abu Dhabi at the end of the month.
Kubica is one of four drivers understood to be in contention to be Lance Stroll’s team-mate next season, following Felipe Massa’s retirement, along with Williams’ reserve driver Paul Di Resta, Pascal Wehrlein and Daniil Kvyat.
Williams co-founder Sir Patrick Head, who will have no say in the team’s driver line-up decision, thinks Kubica would be a strong choice if he can physically cope with the demands of F1.
“Robert was one of the outstanding drivers in Formula 1 in recent years,” he told the F1 Report, which first airs at 8.30pm on Wednesday on Sky Sports F1.
“The big difficulty is, does he still have the toughness and heart for it? Only he knows that. And is he physically capable? He’s certainly got a very heavily damaged arm and Williams obviously want to find that out.
“If he is physically capable, he will be a very good choice.
“Lance was asked himself who he would like to see and he jokingly said Lewis Hamilton. Obviously this has been a big learning year for Lance and in order for him to be rated, then the chap in the other car needs to be highly rated as well. You are always rated against your team-mate.
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“For Lance, his view will be he needs the strongest driver possible in the other car. There’s always going to be question marks about Robert because of his physical limitations until he proves that’s not the case. Maybe a test in Abu Dhabi will show internally if he has the capability.”
Kubica, a former BMW and Lotus driver, had been widely tipped as a future world champion before his one-off participation in an Italian rally between pre-season F1 tests in 2011 dramatically changed the course of his career.
Just three days after setting the pace in F1 winter testing at Valencia, Kubica crashed into a church wall during the Ronde di Andora rally, suffering extensive damage to his right hand, arm and leg. He underwent several hours of surgery and suffered a partial amputation of his forearm.
Marc Priestley joined Sir Patrick and Natalie Pinkham on the show and he believes that although Kubica’s story will appeal to Williams, he thinks the fact the team are giving him another test means they still have some doubts over his fitness.
“Williams, and any Formula 1 team, have an obligation to factor in marketing and the story and publicity that any driver brings and Robert will bring a hugely fascinating story with him,” Priestley said.
“The fact that they’ve already tested Paul and Robert in a car and yet still haven’t made a decision, or at least publicly announced the decision, and they are now testing Robert again, tells me there is at least some doubt.
“They know what Paul can do, he’s raced for them this year and did a very good job, and there must be some doubt over whether Robert can physically handle every race track or every grand prix situation.”
One option speculated in the paddock is a seat share between Kubica and Di Resta, with the latter standing in at any track where Kubica’s injuries may hinder his performance.
But Priestley would like to see that avoided, saying: “I hope not because I don’t think that’s how Formula 1 should be run. You want the best driver in your car for the entire season.”
Don’t miss the F1 Report on Wednesday at 8.30pm on Sky F1 as Williams co-founder Sir Patrick Head joins Marc Priestley and Natalie Pinkham to review the Brazilian GP.
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