Williams exit does not signal the end of Kubica's incredible comeback

Robert Kubica's co-driver when he suffered life-altering injuries in 2011, Jakub Gerber says the 34-year-old is right to leave Williams.

Published : Sep 22, 2019 13:30 IST

Robert Kubica in action for Williams at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Robert Kubica in action for Williams at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Robert Kubica in action for Williams at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Robert Kubica's time at Williams is set to come to an end, but his incredible story will no doubt continue beyond the Formula One season.

Polish driver Kubica this year returned to the sport for the first time since 2010, a promising career that was set to move to new heights at Ferrari in 2012 having been derailed by a horrific crash at the Ronde di Andora rally that resulted in life-altering injuries.

Ahead of the 2011 season, Kubica's Skoda Fabia slammed into a crash barrier and he suffered fractures to his arm and leg. After hours were spent extricating him from the wreckage as he slipped in and out of consciousness, he was flown to hospital for an operation to save the full functionality of his right hand.

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"Usually crashes happen very often, it's not something strange that you crash in rally," his co-driver that fateful day Jakub Gerber told Omnisport. "Even the biggest stars, even [Lewis] Hamilton and [Sebastian] Vettel had some problems in Singapore.

"It was quite cold but the road was a little bit damp, so the tyre choice was tricky.

"The car slid and we thought everything would be alright, but you know the outcome. If there was nobody or there was a tree or a ditch or something else, you would walk out the car laughing that we had an accident, because we never had one before in 13 or 14 rallies together.

"We had some small off-roads or we hit the curb or something like this. If there was no barrier, we would've had a big laugh. But because of the barrier, the world knows the story."

Kubica announced his decision to leave Williams at a news conference to preview this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix, but his fairy-tale return has proved anything but that. The 34-year-old has spent much of the season at the back of the grid driving for a team that were unable to get their car ready in time for testing at the start of the campaign.

However, the performances he has been restricted to putting in do nothing to take away from a return that Romain Grosjean, who had been hoping to team up with Kubica at Lotus prior to the incident, justifiably described as "inspirational".

"His recovery was quite tricky for him. There were days where we were exchanging like 100 messages, but there were days or weeks or months where there was no contact," said Gerber, who first raced with Kubica at the 2004 Rally Barborka – a Polish event that finishes with a night stage in the centre of Warsaw.

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"We must understand that mentally it was quite tough for him to recover. It wasn't only the problem to physically recover, because he knew he had problems with the arm and he broke his leg a few months after leaving the hospital, so it was tricky for him to recover not only physically but mentally."

The serious injuries Kubica sustained were not going to stop him returning to motorsport, though.

A road accident while a passenger in 2003 left him with screws in his right arm and delayed him from making his Formula Three debut that year. After sitting out the first three events of the campaign, he won his first race back.

That strength of character, that need to race, was again on display when he and Gerber reunited in a rally car for the first time since that day in Italy.

"I'm sure he was thinking about motorsport all the time. I was with him in his first attempt to come back to a rally car because we did it together … we met on some stage in France and tested a Subaru WRC," said Gerber.

"He was a completely different guy and except the hand you couldn't say he had some problems. He has a strong mentally for sure and you couldn't notice he'd had some problems.

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"He said it's the biggest and best rehabilitation for him to drive all the time and not stay at home. As soon as he was able to do it, he did it."

Despite reaching his goal of returning to F1, Kubica admitted he has lost the "joy in racing" at Williams.

Kubica still expects to be competing in 2020, and Gerber has no doubt he will prove invaluable to any team that signs him up.

"He won once in Canada. He was always one of the fastest drivers, and now he's slowest. We can imagine how he feels about this," said Gerber.

"I think it's a good call he quit Williams. Maybe he will go to DTM or, I don't know, to Le Mans. Anything will be better for him than driving in last position the whole season in F1, which they promised him they were going to do something about and they didn't.

"He has a lot of experience, he knows how the car works. He's a very good driver and very helpful to the team from the technical point. He will be very helpful for any team he gets after this."

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