Robert Kubica is officially part of the Formula 1 paddock again, as he returns to a Grand Prix team for the first time since suffering severe injuries in a rally crash six years ago.
The Polish driver has been knocking on the door of an F1 return for the last few months, having initially carried out simulator work with Mercedes, as well as testing for Renault and Williams in the second half of the 2017 season.
His Hungarian test with Renault in August was the first time in over six years that Kubica drove an F1 car, having suffered severe injuries in a rally car crash prior to the 2011 Formula 1 season. Since then, the Polish driver returned to racing and rallying, but has had to work to get back close to the F1 community where he was so highly regarded.
Signed by Williams as their reserve and development driver for 2018, Kubica was apparently overlooked for the second race seat, having looked a strong candidate after the Abu Dhabi tests in November last. However, Williams have opted to sign Russian Sergey Sirotkin instead, taking him from the Renault reserve driver role he held last year.
According to Williams, ‘Robert’s experience and knowledge will prove invaluable to our technical group in the development of FW41’s car performance. He will be able to assist the race drivers and engineers deliver better qualifying and race performance, and of course, be available to stand-in as the race driver if required. He will also support the team’s media and sponsorship support program.’
Kubica was delighted to have made it back to Formula 1 and, if he was in any way disappointed to have not quite made it to a race seat yet, hid it very well in his statements to the press:
“I’m extremely happy to be joining the Williams team as its official Reserve and Development Driver this season. I feel in the best physical shape that I have ever been, but it has taken a lot of work to get to where I am now, so I’d like to thank Williams for the opportunities they have given me so far, and for putting their faith in me with this appointment.
I have enjoyed being back in the Formula One paddock over these past few months, and I now look forward to working with the Williams technical team, both at the factory and at the track, to really help push forward the development of the FW41 and to make a real difference to their 2018 campaign. Having driven both the FW36 and the FW40, I’m looking forward to seeing how the FW41 measures up on track and working with the team to ensure we can maximise the performance of the car.
My ultimate goal remains to race again in Formula One and this is another important step in that direction: I cannot wait to get started.”