By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The comeback trail has come full circle for Robert Kubica, who was announced Thursday that he’ll join Williams Racing for the 2019 Formula One campaign, and will be back on the main grid for the first time since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Kubica, 33, will be partnered up with F2 star and current Mercedes-AMG Petronas test driver George Russell, who’s 13 years his junior as part of a new driver direction for the team that’s under-performed all season.
“Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who has helped me during what was a difficult period of my life over these last few years,” Kubica on his upcoming return. “It has been a challenging journey to make it back to the Formula One grid, but what seemed almost impossible is now beginning to feel possible, as I am excited to be able to say that I will be on the Formula One grid in 2019.
Prior to joining Williams, Kubica was once revered as one of the top drivers on the grid, with a win at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix for BMW Sauber that led him to a fourth-place points finish, and has scored 12 podiums in five seasons.
However, his career and life drastically changed on February 6, 2011, when he nearly lost his life in a heinous rally crash at the Ronde di Andora in Italy. Kubica, who was supposed to retain his role at Renault, which was re-branded as Lotus Renault GP, sustained compound fractures to his right elbow, shoulder and leg, partial amputation on his forearm, and significant loss of blood after being trapped in his car for an hour.
It appeared that his racing career was over, but Kubica made a miraculous recovery, and returned to rallying in 2013. Despite the return to competitive racing, Kubica’s goal was to set a return in F1 and in 2017, he got a chance to test drive for Williams, giving him the opportunity to prove himself that he still got what it takes to compete against the best drivers in the world.
Eventually, he got a chance to run a practice session during both the Spanish and Austrian Grand Prix weekends, where in the former grand prix, he outperformed the soon-to-be departing Lance Stroll in FP1. Behind the scenes, he’s developed the FW41 throughout the season and has shown the sheer determination of making the most of his opportunity, which stands out to Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams.
“I am delighted to announce that Robert will be stepping up to the role of Race Driver to partner George in 2019,” said Williams.
“All of us at Williams have been immensely impressed at what he has achieved, and it is a great credit to his strength of character and tenacity to return to Formula One.
“During this season his commitment to the team and the work he has put in behind the scenes has been unwavering, and he has become an established and much respected member of the Williams team. He has a level of determination that is remarkable to see; and he truly embodies the Williams fighting spirit.”
Williams added that after the family team has struggled all season, with only seven points (six from Stroll and one from Sergey Sirotkin) to their name which puts them last in the Constructors’ Championship, having Kubica will be instrumental on getting back to their once glory days that’s won them nine Constructors’ titles, with their last being in 1997.
“Having the consistency of Robert stepping up into this new role will be an important step for us as we look to fight our way back towards the front of the field,” said Williams.
“I am also excited to have a mixture of youth and experience to lead us into 2019 and we look forward to seeing what they can achieve on track. I would also like to thank Lance and Sergey for their hard work in what has been a challenging season. We wish them all the best for their future careers.”
Kubica said the upcoming season won’t be easy, but is eager to work with Russell and being back in F1 is one of his fondest achievements of his life.
“For sure, it has been a long road to get to this point, but as that challenge now comes to an end with this announcement, a new challenge begins working with Williams on track,” said Kubica.
“It will not be easy, but with hard work and dedication, both George and myself will work together to try and help the team get in better shape to move further up the grid. This year has been tough, but I have learnt a lot, and I’d like to thank Sir Frank and Claire for this opportunity.
“Being back on the F1 grid next season will be one of the greatest achievements of my life, and I’m sure with hard work and commitment we will be able to help motivate the team to achieve good things together.
“Thank you again to everyone who has supported me and believed in me. I will finally be back on the grid behind the wheel of an F1 car, and I cannot wait to get back racing.”