By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
He may not have won the second seat at Williams Martini Racing, but Robert Kubica will still be behind the wheel for the team in 2018.
Williams announced Tuesday the addition of Kubica as a reserve and development driver, signaling that the Pole will participate with the team in testing sessions – including the upcoming Barcelona pre-season testing – as well as occasional practice sessions during race weekends.
“I am delighted to announce that Robert will be joining Williams as our Reserve and Development Driver for the 2018 season,” Claire Williams said in a team release. “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 commitment to return to Formula One.”
“We are excited to be continuing our relationship with Robert and look forward to working with him this coming season.”
A five year veteran of the FIA Formula One World Championship, Kubica tested with the team in an effort to make his return to the series for the first time since 2010 over the course of last season. But while he served as the early favorite for the ride, Kubica eventually lost out on the opportunity to 22-year-old Sergey Sirotkin.
While he didn’t quite earn the driver’s seat for competition, Kubica’s addition to the team still marks a step in the right direction as he continues to attempt a career resurgence after suffering life-threatening injuries in a 2011 rally crash.
“I’m extremely happy to be joining the Williams team as its official Reserve and Development Driver this season,” Kubica said. “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.”
Kubica has made 76 starts in his F1 career, earning a lone win at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the 2008 Grand Prix of Canada. Given the extreme youth of the 2018 Williams lineup, the organization hopes that the 33-year-old’s addition can add a veteran presence to the team.
“We anticipate Robert will make a strong technical contribution to the team, using his wealth of experience in track testing, simulator work, and support to the race drivers and engineers at every race, Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe said. “He is a driver I have admired for many years and I am personally very happy to be working with him towards our 2018 Championship.”
But while he may be content to fill the reserve driver role for now, Kubica’s long-term aspirations remain unchanged.
“My ultimate goal remains to race again in Formula One and this is another important step in that direction,” he said. “I cannot wait to get started.”