A genuine F1 fairy-tale

Today’s confirmation that Robert Kubica will drive for Williams in 2019, has to be one of sport’s greatest come-back stories.

On that cold February morning in 2011 when mixed reports began filtering through that the Pole had been involved in a rallying crash in Italy, few realised just how bad his situation really was.

Then came the semi-official reports, followed by pictures and even simulated re-enactments of the horror crash from which the Pole was lucky to escape with his life.

Just three days before the crash, the Pole had set the fastest time at the three-day pre-season F1 test at Valencia in the Renault, few aware that he had already agreed to move to Ferrari in 2012.

During those long dark days few thought we would see the man drive a car again, far less race, the injuries to his arm recalling those that ended the career of Alessandro Nannini in 1990.

But come back he did, and as the recovery process began – faltering a year later when he slipped on ice near his home and broke his leg – we all followed his progress.

A tentative return began in late 2012 when he contested and won the Ronde Gomitolo Di Lana in a WRC car, the Pole subsequently joining Citroen’s WRC2 programme (pictured) for 2013 and going on to win the championship.

We all followed his progress and though delighted with his results, when he said he was targeting a return to F1 we smiled politely and took it with a pinch of salt.

But then came the F1 outing with Renault, initially said to be a gesture, payback for his previous work for the team, but which turned out to be a giant step on his road back to the F1 grid.

Though he still had the pace there were fears that physically his body would not be able to withstand the demands of a full-on performance.

However, in addition to his insistence that his body was prepared, albeit needing a few modifications to the car, subsequent outings showed that the Pole just might be right, that a return was possible.

In 2017, realising that a come-back with Renault, despite positive test results, wasn’t going to happen, Robert turned his attention to Williams where a vacancy had arisen following Felipe Massa‘s (second) retirement.

The Pole gave a good account of himself at the post-Abu Dhabi test during a so-called shoot-out with Sergey Sirotkin for the second 2018 seat alongside Lance Stroll.

However, despite out-pacing the Russian, publicly, at least, Williams appeared to have a number of issues with Kubica and eventually named Sirotkin as its number two while the Pole was subsequently appointed test and reserve driver.

Fact is, the Grove outfit opted for Sirotkin’s roubles, the Russian coming with a substantial amount of backing whereas Kubica had very little.

However, in putting money before talent and experience Williams paid the price, the Grove outfit looking increasingly likely to finish the season last in the team standings having produced a poor car that neither of its inexperienced drivers was able to improve.

No disrespect to Sirotkin, who has actually given a good account of himself this year, even if the results don’t show it, but putting Kubica alongside George Russell for 2019 was a no brainer.

Like the progress being made by the incredible Billy Monger, Robert is proof that if you have the determination, the self-belief and the talent, you can win out in the end.

At a time the sport’s powers-that-be increasingly talk marketing double speak, clearly unable to comprehend what Formula One is really all about, Williams and Robert have given them a genuine fairy-tale… and the sport is all the better for it.