Robert Kubica’s dream of a Formula 1 return took another small step towards becoming a reality after another test 2012 Lotus-Renault E20, at Paul Ricard, to further evaluate his physical ability to drive for sustained periods of time.
A month after his return to an Formula 1 cockpit, for the first time since 2011, at Valencia, the Polish driver completed 90 laps at the challenging Paul Ricard circuit in southern France, which returns to the F1 calendar in 2018, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
L’Equipe, the only media outlet permitted to cover the test, reported that a return to F1 for Kubica would not be limited by the injury he sustained in that ill-fated rally accident six years ago.
In windy and gusty conditions he was up to the task of long stints at high speed, while the disability in his right arm was not a debilitating factor and did not hamper him during his time in the cockpit.
Kubica said at the end of the day, “It is necessary to go step by step. I have come a long way. Don’t forget that. My doubts about my capacities have disappeared with these two days of tests. I am no longer afraid of not being at the level but there remains a way to go.”
“Physical limitations do not influence my driving. I am doing everything to maximise my chances. But I don’t know what will happen in the future. I don’t want to come back for nothing. I want to return at a high level,” insisted the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix winner.
However Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul is still playing down Kubica’s ability to return to Formula 1 claiming it was early days to make a decision and suggested that more testing could be in the pipeline.
An opportunity for Kubica to test a 2017-spec car – a more physical car to drive than the 2012 car he has tested – will be on 1-2 August during the official F1 test at Hungaroring after the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.
Although this is expected to happen, Abiteboul is tempering expectations, “[It’s] too early to say if Robert will be with us in Budapest”.
“He has so far only driven an old car, with a detuned engine, with demonstration tyres. He has not been submitted to the stresses of a race nor run with other cars,” added Abiteboul.
With Jolyon Palmer enduring a below par season relative to teammate Nico Hulkenberg, it is becoming increasingly likely that the Englishman will not be with the team beyond 2017.
A number of drivers are on the radar to partner Hulkenberg in 2018, including Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz.
If Kubica is selected to test for Renault, in Budapest next month, it will signal the team’s growing confidence in his abilities. A successful test that week could put the Pole in the queue to drive for the team in 2017.
Big Question. Will Robert’s Formula 1 comeback dream turn to reality?