Returning to the Formula 1 grid for a single season with Williams in 2019, Felipe Massa was happy to see Robert Kubica back racing after his 2011 injury put an end to the Polish driver joining Ferrari.
Kubica joined the Formula 1 grid in 2006 and, two years later, won his first grand prix with BMW-Sauber, P1 at the Canadian Grand Prix.
That, however, would be his one and only race win with his career curtailed by a devastating rally crash in early 2011, one that left him with severe arm injuries.
A year later he was already back racing, once again contesting rallies, but it wasn’t until 2018 that he returned into the F1 fold having signed as Williams’ reserve driver. He spent a season back on the grid with the team in 2019 before moving onto Alfa Romeo as their official reserve driver.
Sadly it was a case of what could have been with Kubica revealing years later he had signed a pre-agreement with Ferrari for the 2012 season, saying “in the end, I haven’t become a Ferrari driver but I was very close”.
Massa acknowledges Kubica would have been the one to end his Ferrari stint, the Brazilian instead staying on until the end of 2013 when he replaced by Kimi Raikkonen.
“It’s so nice to see him back,” Massa told SwiatWyscigów.pl, “living his life, racing and doing what he likes.
“But I’m really sorry for him, I was sure he would take my place at Ferrari because he has done an amazing job in his career.
“I was sure he was the name that would replace me at Ferrari. But that wasn’t a problem [for me] because he deserved it.
“But when his accident happened, I felt really sorry for him because it was unheard of. It was unbelievable to see what had happened to him, that he was alive at all.
“It was also unbelievable that a driver as good as he would miss an important opportunity in his career. I’m sorry about what happened to him.
“Now that we see him back and even racing… I never thought he would ever race. Unfortunately, he has missed a great opportunity for his amazing career that he could have had in Formula 1.”
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Massa recalls their “iconic” 2007 Japanese GP antics
The Brazilian recalled one of his best battles competing against Kubica as the two raced for position in the race at the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix.
Kubica started the final lap ahead of the Ferrari driver before Massa overtook him up the inside. The Polish driver fought back with both drivers off the track at least once, as well as touching wheels, as they raced for sixth place.
Massa pipped Kubica to the line by two-tenths of a second.
“Honestly, looking at what happened on that last lap, I had in mind that maybe even then we would be penalised,” he admitted. “Now you can’t do such things for sure anymore.
“At the time I was sure that one of us, maybe both of us, could be punished for what we did because it was really amazing. It was the last lap and we just tried everything we could.
“I went off track, got back on him, then he went off track, came back on his own, and it was like that in every corner. It was really, really fun from a cockpit perspective.
“It was fun to compete like that, but not because I finished higher, because you don’t know at the moment, anything can happen. It was really fun and from a Formula 1 history perspective, it was an interesting fight for sure.
“I would say comparable to Gilles Villeneuve vs René Arnoux in the past. It was a really interesting and iconic fight from an F1 point of view.”