Robert Kubica opens up on F1 return struggles after joining Williams at ‘worst’ time

Thomas Maher
Robert Kubica pictured at Monza in 2023.

Robert Kubica believes his F1 comeback in 2019 couldn't have happened in worse circumstances.

Robert Kubica believes his F1 return was doomed to fail as the team he joined couldn’t have been any worse at the time.

Kubica, one of the brightest talents to enter F1 in the mid-2000s, suffered life-changing injuries in a rallying crash in 2011 – injuries that curtailed his career severely after fortunately surviving and going through lengthy rehabilitation.

In 2017, Kubica had recovered enough to climb back behind the wheel of an F1 car for private testing and, despite some limitations of use with his right hand, secured a full-time return to F1 with Williams in 2019.

Robert Kubica: Ending up at Williams couldn’t have been worse

Unfortunately for Kubica, Williams was at their nadir point as the team struggled for stability and competitiveness in the foundering years of the Williams family’s ownership. The FW42 suffered from massive setbacks through the development phase, including missing testing days, and proved tricky and slow to drive.

There has been plenty of unfounded rumour and speculation about Kubica’s year with Williams, with fans of the Polish driver pointing to his lack of speed as being indicative of not being given equal equipment to teammate George Russell – a theory that was firmly rejected by then-deputy team boss Claire Williams.

But what was inarguable was Kubica proved unable to show much of the same speed and racecraft that had made him stand out so much during his first stint in F1, as he was unable to gel with the cantankerous car in a period of time where Williams lacked a sense of direction as a team.

Following Williams, Kubica was signed as a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo from 2020 and carried out this role – as well as various tests and practice outings – until the end of 2022 when sponsor PKN Orlen swapped to AlphaTauri. Kubica’s F1 associations now appear over, with the Polish driver set to race in the hypercar category with AF Corse in the World Endurance Championship in 2024.

“In my opinion, my biggest non-sporting success is that, today, everyone has already got used to the way I am,” Kubica said in an interview with Polish publication Przeglad Sportowy.

“Nobody questions it anymore. If you want me, it’s the way I am. Nobody assumes any filters.”

Reflecting on his ill-fated return to a race seat, Kubica summed it up succinctly.

“There is a second thought, related to returning to F1,” he said.

“As far as the sporting aspect with Williams is concerned, I couldn’t do worse.

“To be fair – I have a lot of respect for that group because there were quite a few people who really knew what they were doing there.

“But, unfortunately, we were at the wrong time and in the wrong place.”

Kubica said it was also interesting to see how the friendships of those in the paddock changed as he struggled at the back, compared to when he was seen as a leading light in F1.

“A lot depends on which way the wind blows,” he said.

“If it’s going well and you have a positive flow, then suddenly there are lots of ‘friends’ and ‘acquaintances’ around you. And if it’s not going well, suddenly they’re not there.

“I make no secret of the fact that my life has been a good test of friendships. The number of friends and people close to me before the accident versus after the accident has changed dramatically. I think it was also a good life lesson.” recommends

Where are they now? The F1 2008 grid for Lewis Hamilton’s dramatic first title

F1 driver sackings: The most brutal firings and bitter disputes in F1 history

Robert Kubica: I want to find the right atmosphere for me

The Polish driver also revealed some of the hidden struggles he faced when going through the recovery phase from the horrific injuries he suffered in his rally crash, saying his brain sometimes ‘would not accept’ what had happened.

“One stage was particularly difficult for me and even incomprehensible to me at times,” he said.

“Not many people know about it. There was a moment when my brain and my thoughts did not accept my body. I would wake up at night and have the feeling that my right body part did not belong to me. It felt like it wasn’t mine.

“I will honestly admit that, even now, I find it difficult to recount this well. There were times when I wished I didn’t have that right body part. These were very bad thoughts. Anyway, there were a lot of them during the rehabilitation period.”

With his time in F1 behind him and a burgeoning career in sportscars beckoning, particularly now that his connections with Orlen have been renewed, Kubica admitted he has thoughts about what will come after racing in his life.

“I know that my professional life takes up 90 percent of my time,” he said.

“It’s like this: when I go for a bike ride, I think about racing. The entire schedule of the day and the year is subordinated to what awaits me in the car. On the one hand, this is positive, but on the other hand, I will soon be 40 years old and thoughts start to arise – what will I do next in life?

“Over the years, I have come to the realisation that you don’t have to race at all costs. I want to find the right atmosphere where I know I feel good.”

Read Next: Toto Wolff interview: When Toto will leave Mercedes…and why he’s nowhere near ready yet