Robert Kubica on when he realised he could make a race return to F1
"My doubts were gone last year in my second or third test in an F1 car," says new Williams race driver as he prepares for full comeback
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 14/02/19 3:48pm
Robert Kubica has described the moment he realised he could return to F1 as "the most important day of my life".
The Pole's Formula 1 career appeared to have been ended by a horrific accident during a rally in 2011 that left him with a partially-amputated arm.
But after eight years out of the sport, Kubica will return to a full-time drive with Williams next year having initially made his first step towards a comeback when he drove a Renault F1 car in the summer of 2017.
"Twelve months ago l realised l can do it and realised l could drive as naturally as l did before," Kubica revealed to Sky F1 when he reflected on his appointment as George Russell's team-mate at Williams. "The most important day of my life was 12 months ago when l knew l could do it. I honestly think l am now more ready than l was before."
On-board footage from Kubica's car has shown how the Pole has modified his style following his injury.
"My doubts were gone last year in my second or third test in an F1 car. The question marks were related in a technical point of view: how the new car will suit you, how the new tyres will suit you. But this is the same for every driver in the paddock," he said.
"I wouldn't be coming back if l didn't think l could do it properly. I have a lot more to lose than people think."
Did Kubica turn down Ferrari for Williams role?
Paddock rumour following his appointment has suggested Kubica turned down an offer to become a development driver for Ferrari in order to return full-time to F1.
"The question was 'what is best for my future?' There is no secret that l had one very important option for my future," admitted Kubica.
"But if l took that direction…I said to myself 'it will be tough to look at yourself in the mirror 10 years later knowing you had an opportunity and you said no'."
Ferrari are searching for new development drivers after Daniil Kvyat and Antonio Giovinazzi, who filled the role this year, departed to join Toro Rosso and Sauber respectively.
Williams: Kubica too impressive to turn down
Kubica is believed to have brought significant sponsorship benefits to Williams and his signing has heralded a new partnership deal for the team with Polish oil company PKN ORLEN.
But team boss Claire Williams has insisted it was Kubica's fighting spirit and work as their 2018 development driver which ultimately persuaded Williams to sign the 33-year-old.
"We did a full evaluation process with the pool of drivers who we were looking at. Robert has been great this year," said Williams. "Even the fact that we didn't select him for a race seat this year, he still stepped up. He has been really impressive working behind the scenes. His commitment, his tenacity and what he wants to see the team doing has really impressed me. He is a real driving force."
But can Williams recover in 2019?
While Kubica's return has delivered an immediate feel-good factor to 2019, its impact will be short-lived if Williams' 2018 struggles are repeated following the worst season in their history.
"Everybody is working so hard to get us out of where we are at the moment," said Williams. "We have to wait and see. A lot depends on what everyone is bringing to the table. We have tried to understand the issues we've been faced with this year, that's been a big piece of work that we've been focusing on.
"We've also been looking at all our structures and procedures, and a big piece of work around cultural transformation to make sure we all have the right mindset we need when we go racing."
Kubica added: "The big part of the job we have to do is off track. To develop the car and bring Williams back to where it should be."
After driving in three practice sessions during the 2018 season, Kubica drove the team's car on the final day of testing in Abu Dhabi.
His journey, and Williams' road back towards the front, has only just begun.
"It is the end of a long journey and it has been a big challenge to get here. But now it's the start of a new challenge."
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