Formula 1 fans will likely remember his name. In 2011, a then-26-year-old Robert Kubica was hailed as a future champion. Some analysts, including Sky Sports’ F1 expert March Hughes, even compared Kubica to three-time champion Lewis Hamilton. But then Kubica’s career came to an abrupt halt.
That same year, Kubica entered a rally car race in Italy that ended in tragedy. He crashed into a guardrail, suffering severe injuries to his right hand, arm and leg. While doctors were able to save Kubica’s arm, they had to partially amputate sections of his forearm, which left it much weaker than his other. For many, this looked like the end of Kubica’s once-promising career.
But not for the Polish driver. Shortly after the seven-hour surgery, Kubica predicted he’d come back.
“In these situations, your abilities and motivation shine through,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport (via the Times of Malta) in 2011. “I’ll come back a better driver and a stronger person.”
Six years later, Kubica is on his way. Last week, the 32-year-old successfully completed a test drive of a modern F1 car for the first time since his accident. Driving for Renault, Kubica completed 142 laps on Budapest’s Hungaroring — the same route that made up the Hungarian Grand Prix — clocking in the fourth-fastest time of the day, according to Autosport.
— Renault Sport F1 (@RenaultSportF1) August 2, 2017
“It has been a very interesting day, a great day,” Kubica said (via Team Renault’s Twitter account) after the test.
He added that still there are “a lot of things to learn” because of technological advancements made between the last time he drove an F1 vehicle and today’s car, but that he felt “happy” with how the day progressed.
Kubica said his biggest lesson came at the beginning of the day when he pulled out of the garage for the first time and clipped the side of the car on the wall.
“I forgot the cars are longer and wider,” he told reporters (via ESPN) after the test last week. “That was the only mistake I did, so that’s positive.”
Just how positive remains unknown for now, but if all goes as planned for him, Kubica could return to the circuit next year.
“We will carefully analyze the collected information to determine in what conditions it would be possible for Robert to return to competition in the upcoming years,” Renault said (via Sky Sports) last week.