Six years after a rally crash nearly killed him, former Formula One driver Robert Kubica got back in a car with the Renault F1 team this summer. Kubica held a good pace during the test session, and the team’s director even said they were looking at a potential return to competition. But reality seems to have hit.
The test Kubica participated in was at the Hungaroring in the days following the Hungarian Grand Prix, a session that Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said was to “determine in what conditions it would be possible for Robert to return to competition in the upcoming years.” Kubica seemed to have gotten on board with that at first, as ESPN reports that he got 2016 F1 champion and now-retired driver Nico Rosberg to help him with his comeback.
But Kubica, 31 years old, hasn’t raced in F1 since 2011 and isn’t as confident in his remarkable comeback run as we all might have hoped. From ESPN:
“I am very realistic and I know that the possibility of my returning full-time to racing in Formula One is very slight,” Kubica told FIA magazine Auto. “Every day, I discover my new limits, but I have always hoped that I’d at least get the chance to give it a go.
“I’ve done a lot of kilometres in the simulator and I’ve driven in other categories, but I knew that only driving a Formula One car would give me those special feelings again and that proved to be true.”
Kubica had been out of F1 for so long due to the crash that he hadn’t competed in the modern race car, the V6 turbo that was introduced in 2014, going into the test. The Feb. 6, 2011 rally crash happened when Kubica was one of F1’s future stars racing on the Renault team, with The Guardian questioning the future of “one of the most promising” drivers in F1 at the time.
A guardrail pierced Kubica’s rally car, where he was stuck for more than an hour before being extracted. It took seven hours of surgery to save the use of his right hand, and he had various leg and arm fractures as well. Here’s how he described the aftermath, from ESPN:
“Life had given me so much and then, in an instant, it took it all away. They say time is a healer but that wasn’t the case for me — in fact it made me suﬀer more.
“At first I thought I’d get full functionality back quite quickly, but that didn’t happen and the improvement I was hoping for didn’t come. ...
“The accident turned my life upside down, but I’m aware that a few centimetres more and I wouldn’t be here talking about it. The biggest job I had to do was in my own head.
“There were some terrible times in which I no longer felt up to it. It was worse than a physical pain, but now I can finally feel at peace with myself, because I’m back to being who I was — a Formula One driver.”
It’s sad to hear that the comeback story we all hoped for doesn’t have much hope left. But if driving an F1 car outside of full-time competition is enough of a comeback for Kubica, maybe it should be for us, too.