Robert Kubica, who became the first Polish driver in the history of Formula One, knows the art of survival. His career changed with two devastating crashes in 2007 and 2011. The crash in 2011, in particular, during a rally car race, almost severed his right arm and many pundits said his racing career was done. However, in a remarkable turnaround, eight years since that devastating crash, Kubica has been signed up by team Williams as a driver for the 2019 Formula One season. The 33-year-old competed in a series of practice sessions and his promotion was confirmed just ahead of the season-ending Abu Dhabi race.
Williams announced the signing officially on their Twitter handle (@WilliamsRacing). Along with Kubica, 21-year-old British driver George Russell will be his team-mate. Kubica replaces Russia’s Segey Sirotkin in the roster, who had an average year with Williams in 2018.
Kubica made his debut in 2006 for BMW Sauber and started off on a steady note. However, in 2007, his season was marred by a horrific accident in the Canadian Grand Prix. On lap 27, his car made contact with Jarno Trulli's Toyota and hit a hump in the grass which lifted the car's nose into the air. The car then hit the concrete retaining wall and rolled as it came back across the track, striking the opposite wall on the outside of the hairpin and coming to rest on its side. Kubica was conscious and talking and there were reports that the Polish driver suffered a broken leg.
However, the year 2008 saw Kubica at his best as he won the Canadian Grand Prix and finished the driver’s championship in fourth for BMW Sauber. In 2009, he finished second in the Brazilian Grand Prix and in 2010, he moved to Renault.
In the 2011 Ronde di Andorra rally in Italy, Kubica took part in the rally for personal fun but suffered a horrific crash when his car left the road at high speed and hit a crash barrier near the church of San Sebastiano. Kubica was trapped in the car for more than an hour before rescue workers were able to extricate him. It was confirmed that he had suffered partial amputation of his forearm, compound fractures to his right elbow, shoulder and leg, as well as significant loss of blood. The severity of his injuries was the result of the crash barrier penetrating the car's cockpit.
Tragically, before the accident happened, he was in talks with Ferrari for a seat in the 2012 season but it was announced that he would not be ready.
Kubica recovered slowly and in 2012, won the Ronde Gomitolo Di Lana in a WRC car months after breaking his leg. After racing in GT3 and Formula E, Kubica returned to Formula One, this time for Renault in 2017 as a test driver. Following Felipe Massa’s retirement, he raced for Williams in 2017 and became a reserve driver for the team in 2018.
Speaking about the announcement, Kubica said, “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. Being back on the F1 grid next season will be one of the greatest achievements of my life. 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.”
After overcoming near-death experiences, one hopes that Kubica’s performance in 2019 script a fairytale story of success.