Why Robert Kubica’s Abu Dhabi Test Is Not About Fitness
Williams says it is still evaluating Kubica’s fitness, but we don’t buy it.
Ever since the prospect of a return to Formula 1 for Robert Kubica began to seem possible in June, two contrasting points of view have dominated the discussion on the Polishman. Fanatical supporters have cheered him on from all corners of the globe, but an equally loud group of doubters, pointing to Kubica's injuries from his 2011 rally crash, see him as physically incapable of driving a modern Formula 1 car. Members of the latter party exist among the highest echelons of the sport, and outwardly, even the team trialling Kubica for a race seat next season (Williams) appears to be a part of this camp.
"We're in a process with Robert, which is a matter of evaluating whether his injuries will have an impact on his ability to drive in Formula 1," said Williams' technical director Paddy Lowe, in an interview with Motorsport. Lowe, however, admits that things have gone smoothly so far, stating, "so far it's been fine, is all I'd say. We ran the 2014 car and there were no issues, so I think we just see how it goes next week [at the Pirelli tire test], then we make our assessment."
On the contrary, there is all the evidence in the world to suggest that the fitness question has already been answered, with multiple sources close to Kubica dismissing the concern.
Ricardo Penteado, Renault Sport F1's trackside operations manager, disclosed after Kubica's test at the Hungaroring in August that the Pole has "no problem" driving modern Formula 1 cars, a statement corroborated by the surgeon who saved Kubica's right hand, Dr. Igor Rossello. In an interview with Polskie Radio, Dr. Rossello stated he believes Kubica's hand and arm to be in appropriate condition to return to the sport.
"The condition that we brought Kubica's hand to meets the requirements of driving at this level," said Dr. Rossello, "the greatest limitation is the elbow rotation. This is a very complicated part of the body, but Robert has learned to replace some other movements. I am sure that in these extremely modern machines it can run as if there were no restrictions."
FIA president Jean Todt also expressed faith in the medical professionals whom Kubica will need to impress in order to return to the sport.
Additionally, current world champion Lewis Hamilton lauded Kubica's skills, elevating him above at least 20 of the 25 drivers to have appeared in this Formula 1 season, only nine of whom competed against Kubica prior to 2011.
As if to hammer another nail into the fitness question's coffin, Kubica managed the fastest extrication test of any driver, according to Sky Sports F1.
So, if we know that driving the car isn't a problem, as evidenced by Penteado and Dr. Rossello, and safely escaping isn't either, what's standing in Kubica's way for a race seat? Word is, it's a matter of money and paperwork, but both should be resolved in time.
The Drive contacted Williams about whether or not the team has any formal plans for the test beyond its claimed fitness evaluation, but no comment has been received.