While Robert Kubica’s return to Formula 1 is the stuff of legend, hailed almost universally as one of the greatest comebacks in sport, Jacques Villeneuve is not convinced and suggests the feel-good story sends out the wrong message.
Kubica’s journey from his near-fatal rally accident in 2011 to a seat on the grid with Williams this year is well told, he overcame the trials and tribulations after his near-death experience to make the most unlikely return to the F1 grid.
But Villeneuve told Formule1.nl that he is not convinced, “I think it’s terrible, it’s not good for the sport. I already said that last year and I am not going to change my opinion.”
“Formula 1 should be the pinnacle of racing, it’s the premier class. This is not good for the sport if someone with a disability can participate. At least not in Formula 1, maybe in other classes.
“Robert’s return is not the right message because F1 must be tough, difficult to race and almost unattainable.”
Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 World Champion, is never shy to give his views no matter how politically incorrect, but at the same time he has admiration for Kubica’s gutsy story.
“Of course, it is a great achievement that he has returned after so many years, really unbelievable. If you have done something that you love and that you have taken away, you know what you are missing. Then you will work even harder to get it back,” reasoned Villeneuve.
Kubica’s return to the top flight has been blighted by the fact that he will toil at the wrong end of the grid for the foreseeable future with Williams, as the once mighty Grove outfit is a shadow of its former self and have failed to put out a decent car for their drivers.
In Melbourne, both Kubica and rookie teammate George Russell were woefully off the pace in the FW42 through no fault of their own and the reasons well-documented.
Stats show that in qualifying for the season opener in Australia, Kubica was last in Q1, four seconds off the pole-winning pace and 2.3 seconds shy of his teammate.
Kubica said of his qualy effort, “It wasn’t the best start of the season especially because I am last on the grid. I made a mistake on the last run when I had a good feeling and could drive the car better. I apologise for that, but that is how it is.”
“It has been a difficult situation, but I am back on the Formula One grid and I would like to thank everyone that has made it possible, as well as the team,” added the 34-year-old Pole.
In the race, Kubica finished last on track, three laps behind the leader in what was his 77th grand prix start. His best lap time in race conditions was 3.5 seconds adrift of the race fastest lap, and half a second slower than Russell in the sister car.
Polish petro-chem giant PKN Orlen are reportedly forking out $15-million to fund Kubica’s return with Williams.