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A great talent awaiting a great car

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Andrew Benson | 15:07 UK time, Monday, 7 February 2011

It is an awful irony that it has taken Robert Kubica's horrific crash in a rally car on Sunday to bring him to the attention of the wider world.

Despite four and a half seasons in Formula 1, the 26-year-old Pole was not exactly a household name. Such is the lot of a grand prix driver who does not find himself in a front-running car.

But Kubica is very different from the other men pounding around in the midfield, to whom the wider TV audience pay only scant attention while focusing on the big names battling it out at the front.

This is a man who is increasingly regarded as one of the very finest racing drivers in the world - someone who, as David Coulthard put it on Monday, can be talked about in the same breath as the likes of Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and the new world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Kubica has won only one grand prix - a superb drive for BMW Sauber in Canada in 2008 - but there was an ever-growing number of F1 observers awaiting with increasing impatience the time he would get his hands on a competitive car.

The signs have been there for some time, little snapshots that made you sit up and take notice that this was someone out of the ordinary.

In 2006, his pace as BMW Sauber's test driver effectively ended the career of 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve - when the Canadian fell out with the team, they needed no encouragement to sack him and replace him with Kubica, knowing that he was not only cheaper, but significantly faster.

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Despite zero experience, Kubica was brilliant in the second half of that year, immediately out-pacing his team-mate Nick Heidfeld, a veteran of more than six seasons, and taking a podium finish in only his third grand prix.

Kubica's driving style - turn in early and on the brakes, demanding a lot from the outside front tyre - meant he was affected badly by the switch to a single tyre supplier, and consequent lower grip levels, in 2007.

But he bounced back with a bang in 2008, driving with stunning consistency and pace to lead the championship after that win in Canada mid-season.

What happened next rankles with Kubica to this day.

BMW's plan was to use 2008 as a building year for a full title assault in 2009, and they stuck to it resolutely, easing off development of their race car just as they had got themselves to the top of the pile, in order to concentrate on their next model.

Their logic was that the car was not really quick enough to win the title against the superior machines of McLaren and Ferrari, that they were only leading the championship because Kubica had been more consistent than his rivals - and that the top teams would eventually get their act together.

Robert Kubica crashes his BMW in the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix

Kubica missed only one race after emerging unhurt from this crash in 2007. Photo: Getty

Kubica didn't see it that way - he saw a team giving up a golden opportunity to win the championship. Even with BMW's decision, he ended up finishing third, in contention until the penultimate race.

BMW's intransigence - matched, it has to be said, by Kubica's stubbornness - fatally damaged the driver's relationship with the team, and is almost certainly one reason behind his generally lacklustre 2009 season, when Heidfeld more or less matched him.

Even then, though, there were flashes of genius from Kubica, and last season, following his move to Renault, the doubters became less and less.

The 2010 Renault was not a great car, and had no business mixing it at the front with the Red Bulls, Ferraris and McLarens.

But Kubica performed miracles to qualify it in the top three at Monaco, Spa and Suzuka, the three tracks where a driver's input is most important, where a great driver can transcend the level of his car.

How good is he?

Among his fellow drivers, there has never been any doubt about Kubica's quality. Hamilton regards him as a future world champion - Kubica was the Englishman's main rival in their karting days as teenagers; Alonso has been quoted referring to him as the best driver in the world.

It is also a little known fact that, when Vettel was an inexperienced BMW test driver in 2007, Kubica was an average of about 0.4secs quicker than him.

At Renault, they adore him - technical director James Allison was effusive in a profile of Kubica my colleague Mark Hughes wrote for this website last season.

Allison, who has also worked with Alonso, described Kubica as "one of those very, very top guys where you know that if the car is not running at the front it's because of the car, not him", adding that he was "incredibly fast, won't make mistakes under pressure and will plough on for lap after lap at a really good pace".

Ferrari, too, have noticed his ability. He came very close to replacing Felipe Massa when the Brazilian suffered a fractured skull in a crash in Hungary in 2009, missing out only because he was too big for the car.

The interest remains. And before Sunday, most in F1 expected Kubica to replace Massa eventually, either at the end of this year or next.

Even a Ferrari drive, you suspect, would not change him. Kubica is totally unaffected by fame, has a complete lack of interest in self-promotion and is unimpressed by the razzmatazz of F1.

It now remains to be seen whether he will ever sit in the Ferrari that appears to have his name on it.

F1 drivers are renowned for their near-miraculous ability to recover from terrible injuries - they are to a man very fit and tremendously determined. And as someone close to him said on Monday, Kubica is also "totally stubborn". He will need all his single-mindedness to fight back after this.

But he has done it before. After breaking his left arm in 13 places when a passenger in a road-car crash early in 2003, doctors said he would be out for between six months and a year. Three months later he made his Formula Three debut and won.

Equally, after surviving virtually unscathed a horrific barrel-roll in the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix, doctors advised him to sit out the US Grand Prix seven days later. He was back for the following event in France, and qualified and finished fourth.

On Monday, the initial prognosis was about as positive as you could expect in the circumstances. Nevertheless, with such serious injuries, it seems likely that Kubica will be out for most of the season and replacing him is going to be impossible for Renault. There are simply not any drivers of comparable quality around.

Renault have two 'third drivers' in Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean, but both are inexperienced and unproven, just like Kubica's team-mate, the Russian Vitaly Petrov. Will a team with aspirations of winning a couple of races this year feel they can go into a full season with a driver line-up like that?

The other option is to take someone experienced. They could potentially try to buy 2010 Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg out of his reserve driver contract with Force India. And Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi, rejected by Force India this season despite having a contract, is also available.

But the obvious contender is Heidfeld, F1's Mr Consistency, who may not set the world on fire, but can be relied upon to be decently quick and score regular points.

Whoever it is, they have a tough act to follow.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Best wishes to Robert, let's all hope he has a quick and full recovery.
    And once he's done that, let's hope Renault give him some decent machinery.

  • Comment number 2.

    Prediction straight away on hearing the news- Robert comes back and wins the world championship in one or two years.

    He's a brilliant driver, possibly up there as the best. Look forward to see him return, get well soon!

  • Comment number 3.

    Get well soon Robert - Terrible news hope you make a full recovery.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ditto 1, 2 and 3. Hope to see him back soon.

  • Comment number 5.

    Here here. Hope he makes a full and speedy recovery and we see him back stronger than ever.

  • Comment number 6.

    Terrible news for all F1 fans. Gutted for Kubica. On the plus side, glad it wasn't worse...?

    Where's Kubica_for_a_prancing_horse when you need him!!!

    Come on Kubica, you have HUGE fan base and following! We wish you well, and back in the seat as soon as is safe and sensible for you. Will miss you in every race you're not in, but really, only come back when its right...

    Thanks Andrew for very positive article re. one of our favourite racers.

  • Comment number 7.

    I thought his crash in 2007 was going to break him down - but it didn't. I sincerely hope the same can be said of this accident. Best of luck on a full recovery, Robert.

  • Comment number 8.

    All I can do is echo the sentaments of the above posters. My favourite driver on the circuit and, by the way he conducts himself, off the circuit to.

    Given the right car he surely would have been in contention for the DWC and early testing in the new Lotus-Renault looked promising for him to put himself in amongst the top drivers, although not in contention for the title.

    He will be a massive loss to his team this year and will also dull up the mid-pack racing this season.

    Get well soon Robert

  • Comment number 9.

    A great driver and horrible news. Robert get well and racing soon!

  • Comment number 10.

    Suprised that Fisichella has not really been mentioned as a replacment because he has driven for Renault in the past and is experienced, although I hope Bruno Senna gets a chance because I think he deserves a proper chance to show what he can do. Lets just hope Kubica returns to F1 and that he has not lost any of his potential.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hope robert gets better soon, he does a good job and doesnt complain

    as for a replacement i would like to see senna get the drive. however whoever replaces robert will not just get it done as quietly as him

  • Comment number 12.

    Like everyone else so far, wishing Robert all the best for a (most-importantly) full and (a bit less important) speedy recovery

    Will be interesting to see what (Lotus)-Renault will do now. It seems odd that they have 2 'reserve' (Senna and Grosjean) and 3 'test' drivers (Fauzy, Charouz and Tung) on their books yet none of them are deemed experienced enough to be a viable long-term stand in. Will they be audacious and try to tempt Raikkonen back (ironically from the world of rallying), even after the war of words last year? Would he even entertain the idea? What about Heidfeld, a safe pair of hands?

    Whoever they will choose, hopefully it will only be a temporary measure - get well soon Robert!

  • Comment number 13.

    By the way, good article once again!

  • Comment number 14.

    Massive revisionism going on here in sympathy to Kubica after his accident, I feel.

    Heidfeld outperformed him when they were teammates in three out of four years - 2006, 2007 and 2009.

    I don't see how you can claim that Kubica was the better performer in 2006, given that in the six races both contested Heidfeld claimed ten points to Kubica's six, while your claim that Kubica was "affected badly by the switch to a single tyre supplier" serves only as an excuse for a year (2007) where Heidfeld bested him. Likewise, the claim that "Heidfeld more or less matched him" in 2009 is simply false - as the points table shows, the German was again better.

  • Comment number 15.

    firstly, i hope he gets well soon. He's a great driver with a chance to mix things up at the front of the field.
    Also, I feel it's a good chance for hulkenburg to prove himself, but I think kubica could be back for the last few races of the season

  • Comment number 16.

    I'll add to the other comments in wishing him a speedy recovery. Although we the fan are somewhat detached from assessing his ability and personality, it's clear from what everyone else reads and says about him that he's a great guy and a great driver. We can only hope that this accident hasn't finished his F1 career and he comes back stronger than ever.

    With regards to a short-term replacement, there is a current rally driver and former world champion who does have the quality to replace Kubica. Imagine if Kimi came back and there were six world champions on the grid...!

  • Comment number 17.

    Bad news about Kubica. I felt he was an outside bet for the title if Renault improved over last season's efforts. He'll be back, and he will win again, but it will be a long and difficult process.

    I suspect it will be either Heidfeld or Liuzzi who takes his place. Heidfeld would be a good choice: he's quick enough and can get podiums in the right car. Liuzzi has frustrated for years, and Hulkenburg, Senna and Grosjean are all unproven to various degrees. Heidfeld may also be better at promoting Petrov, as he seems to be someone who would share his data, etc. with his team. He's certainly in the last chance saloon, this is his absolute last chance if he gets the drive.

  • Comment number 18.

    In response to the blog I agree Kubica is one of the best drivers on the grid up there with Massa, Webber and Vettel and my new favourite slow driver Petrov.

    I dont think Kubica would really go to Ferrari to partner Alonso because how would he like to have this written in his contract "On every occasion you allow your team mate Fernando Alonso to pass you so we dont cause controversy with radio messages!"?

    And if Alonso is quoted to have named Kubica the best in the world then surely the question must have been "Without naming yourself, as much as it will kill you to do so, who do you rate as the best driver in the world?"

    But deepest of sympathies to Kubica and I hope he does get to come back to the sport soon. He is a real raw talent and I would actually like him to guide Renault to world title success. Then he can partner Massa cos Alonso wouldnt be having any of it being paired with a faster driver.

  • Comment number 19.

    Great blog as always Benson.

    Worth mentioning that only Fernando Alonso rushed to the hospital where Robert was taken. Fernando and Robert Kubica's manager stayed there while he was in surgery although they weren't allowed to see him as the operation lasted many hours and following it, Robert was put under an induced coma until today.

    They say there are no friends among the F1 drivers but these two are true friends. By attending in person rather than by posting messages on the internet, Fernando Alonso's gesture has shown how wrong those who ever so often criticise and vilify him are.

  • Comment number 20.

    Really do hope he returns he is a great man on and off the track. If Kubica gets into one of the top cars a World Championship is almost 100% certenty.

  • Comment number 21.

    I know this is repeating other comments, but I wish Robert Kubica a full, 100% recovery from this, and I hope he is well enough to start his rehabilitation very soon. He is a great talent, and if he does not fully recover from this accident, it will be cruel and a personal tragedy for him, and a great loss for the sport. I do hope we do not loose another talent the way I feel has happened with Felipe Massa, who hasn't regained 100% of his former abilities and sadly does not seem likely to.

  • Comment number 22.

    21. I think we will see Massa regain his mojo this season. In 2008 he was expected to be trounced by Kimi and look how wrong we were. It seems Rob Smedley will have to bring out the best in Felipe again and get him back to the front by delivering his cool usual in race banter and just help Felipe relax and keep his cool head. I think this season could see Massa prove everyone wrong.

  • Comment number 23.

    Like I'm sure many are: I'd like to send best wishes to Kubica. Undoubtedly a potential world champion. Remember Hakkinen. He can still succeed. Best wishes.

  • Comment number 24.

    Was gutted when I heard about Robert, he is such a great driver, a definite world champion in the making and I'm sure he will make a full recovery. Get well soon Robert!!

  • Comment number 25.

    I too echo the comments of everyone else in wishing Robert Kubica a speedy recovery and I hope to see him towards the front of the pack in F1 very soon. I really thought he would be the wildcard in this season, following the recent tests. It is such a terrible shame.

    I know that Lotus-Renault will have to look at a replacement in the next few days & weeks and I reckon Heidfeld is probably the safe bet. However, maybe this could be a time for Raikonnen to return to the fold??? Mansell made a return to F1 in 1994 following Senna's death and scored a win for Williams. Maybe Lotus-Renault could look to see if they could entice Kimi, a former WDC, away from Rallying for a bit in Kubica's absense.

    I hope that whoever replaces him is doing so in the short term though - F1 would be worse off without Kubica. GET WELL SOON ROBERT

  • Comment number 26.

    Sad to hear about this and all the best to him on his recovery. Great driver whose presence will be missed for as long as he is out. Am optimistic that he will recover but only time will tell.

    Hope none of the has beens get in the seat though, I know teams are conservative in such circumstances but would be nice to see another young driver come through and be given an opportunity. Pity Dario Franchitti doesn't fancy a whizz.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hopefully Kubica will make a quick recovery !

    But in the mean time i hope Brunno gets the seat.
    Senna in a Lotus Renault, where have i heard that before.. ;)

  • Comment number 28.

    I wish Kubica all the best.

    I was looking forward to seeing what he could do in that new Renault.

    As a temporary replacement I would suggest Raikkonen if he wanted to help out.

  • Comment number 29.

    Hulkenberg to get the drive. He has the most potential of anyone available and was very good at the end of last season.

  • Comment number 30.

    I would agree with the majority of the article except one point - I do think its a slight unfair comparison with Vettel in 2007 considering Vettel was at the ripe old age of 20 at the time!

    I would be sceptical at the ability of either of the reserve drivers to step in and perform even remotely as well as Kubica would have - I know it is unfair to judge and its so tough on the young drivers these days with the testing ban etc but I dont think there was anything to suggest last season that Senna is particularly worthy of the drive over any of the other up and comers.

  • Comment number 31.

    speedy recovery robert!! one of the best drivers on the F-1 scene today.
    wishing you all the best.

  • Comment number 32.

    Terrible news for the sport. F1 fans everywhere will hope Kubica can make a full recovery and come back even better.

    Renault have a major problem on their hands in replacing him as they won't find anyone of the same calibre and experience, but they need someone ASAP so that person can continue with the testing and learning the car.

    The question is do they effectively write off this season and use either Senna or Grosjean to partner Petrov? No star driver, two drivers with little experience in F1 and no stunning drives to their name.

    Or... do they splash the cash and go for someone? But who?! Who could they possibly get!

    Know what I'd do? Chandook. A guy with recent F1 experience, albeit in a very uncompetitve car, but it could be a real marketing gem. Indian Grand Prix anyone? Give him a seemingly good car and Renault merchandising in India could rocket skywards...

  • Comment number 33.

    I'm Wishing Robert A quick & full recovery - He's always been a Great Driver

    He's always shown great tallent i hope this accident dosent diminish his disire to race again

  • Comment number 34.

    This is a rather gushing and badly written article, which carries the tone of a mawkish obituary, despite the fact that Kubica is likely to recover within 18 months at the latest. Perhaps that's to be expected from a reporter who, via the BBC's F1 website last week, brought us a text stream of students' twittery-drivel about biscuits, while other, genuinely professional, motorsport news teams brought us almost continuous, substantive interest from Valencia testing.

    Having finally done some work, and not sat back encouraging the psychologically needy to ease from the bowels of their consciousness more piffle about essays and shout-outs, the final analysis applies itself the part of this story with most significance for the sport: who will replace Kubica?

    This very moment, Raikkonen's people are speaking to Boullier's people, and although other choices are more likely, this could be the best opportunity for Raikkonen to make a graceful re-entry to F1, create a positive impression, and retain the option to leave whenever the fancy takes him.

    Despite Kubica's demi-greatness, the idle comparison between Kubica in a BMW race seat and the 19-year-old tester Vettel is asinine. Robert may yet go down in history as one of the supreme champions alongside Senna, Schumacher, Vettel and Alonso, but there's more to attaining that mantle than mere speed.

    Though the injuries mean a lengthy program of rehabilitation, as he makes his recovery, I'm sure Kubica will share with all F1 fans the sense that the real tragedy is that he was lost from the grid during 2011.

  • Comment number 35.

    Love and best wishes for a speedy recovery to Robert. Don't even question his determination to bounce back - Robert has the mental fortitude necessary.
    Agree with #19 - Fernando has had a lot of bad press from UK journalists but he is a true friend of Robert's - Thanks Fernando

  • Comment number 36.

    Get Well Soon Robert. F1 needs great racers like you

  • Comment number 37.

    I read earlier that the first thing Kubica asked about when he came to was the wellbeing of his co-driver... what a guy!

  • Comment number 38.

    Kubica has the previous experience of coming back from two bad accidents to shine and most importantly he appears to have the moral fibre and unfazable attitude of a champion. Best wishes Robert, let's see you back on track where you belong soon.

  • Comment number 39.

    @32 Chandok would be a good marketing choice. But so would a Senna being back in a lotus renault that happens to be the same colour scheme. lets hope the replacement choice isnt made by the wallet

  • Comment number 40.

    @6 Beawulf, I'm here, glad to see I've not been forgotten ;) I've been following it all but waiting for the final tests before I could possibly predict what might happen in the lottery that is F1.

    I was devastated to read this on sunday morning. Thankfully he wasn't killed and it seems the damage to his hand may be less severe than first thought. I wish him a speedy recovery as everyone above has, hopefully he'll pull a Randy de Puniet and be back quicker than anyone could predict and still be at the top of his ability.

    I really believed this could be his year (although, admittedly, I would regardless) if the Renault exhaust system did the job they predicted, it seems a clever way to reclaim the lost downforce in theory. For nostalgic reasons I hope Bruno gets given the second seat, seeing the yellow and green helmet in the JPS livery would be incredible, but I can see Hulkengberg being given the drive having raced with an established team and shown flashes of brilliance.

  • Comment number 41.

    I agree, it is quite infortunate that it appears to be that Kubica will be out for the whole season. It detracts a lot from the hype because the Renault looked like it could have been quite a competitive car, we may never see that potential now. I hope that either Heidfeld or Hulkenberg get the seat because those drivers probably deserve it more than Senna or Grosjean and they will probably get more out of the car.

    I think it is quite irresponsible of the driver to take part in these sorts of events right in the middle of the testing period and right before the start of the season, team bosses should be clamping down on this sort of thing so that it does not happen espescially after what happend to Webber a couple of years ago. The driver also has a responsibility to be there for the team who will have worked very hard over the winter in getting a car ready for the new season. I dont think you would ever see Hamilton or Alonso doing something as risky as rallying before the start of the season but there you go, it's happend now.

    Check out www.f1predictions.net which will launch tomorrow, it's a free predictions game for the 2011 season with prizes for winners.

  • Comment number 42.

    It is sad what happend to Robert, he is a good driver - i think Renault will have to go with Heidfield - Hulkenberg is a rising star - so he is a man to watch! I feel sorry for Senna - he should be given a chance - I think Petrov may be dropped by Renault mid way season and It will be either Heidfield & Hulkenberg or Senna - Either way - it is not total loss for Renault.

    As for Robert, time will tell if he will ever be on the level he was - Massa had a bad accident and it affected his 2010 campaign - i think Robert will be sticking it out for most if not all the 2011 season

    If he does return only time will tell if he will be the same as before!

  • Comment number 43.

    @ #39 Chris W

    I hear what you're saying matey, but I think the Indian would be a more lucrative signing than the Brazilian. Brazil already has Barrichello, Massa and Di Grassi, to cheer for and buy the merchandise. I can't see all of them going out and buying all new stuff just because Senna's nephew is driving the same colour car his uncle did. I may be quite wrong in that, but you know, those are my thoughts.

    With Chandhok, it's like.. all new, in a way. We had Karthikeyan driving a while ago, but he didn't shine and his only points came from the farce of the US Grand Prix in 2005 when the Michelin runners didn't compete. He's back this year but in a uncompetetive car and I suspect he/someone is paying for his drive.

    Ask the people of India to name an Indian racing driver, and I bet they'd say Chandok first as he's fresher in their minds. So... give the man a good car and he could have quite a following in India, not to mention Indians all over the world, which could be a goldmine for the Renault team and Renault sales in India. Even Lotus could gain from it, with their association with the Renault team.

    In any case, roll on Bahrain and naturally, wishing a speedy recovery to Kubica!

  • Comment number 44.

    Get well Kubica,

    NOW REALITY CHECK! WTF are these guys doing. Surely there should be clauses in their contracts to prevent such accidents.

    WHEN WILL THE DRIVERS OR TEAM LEARN AND PUT CLAUSES IN PREVENTING DRIVERS DOING DANGEROUS ACTIVITIES? AND A COUPLE OF WEEKS BEFORE THE NEW SEASON!!!!

    WEBBER LOST HIS CHAMPIONSHIP COZ OF A SECOND BIKE ACCIDENT AND NOW THIS!!!!!

  • Comment number 45.

    Get well Robert! Was really looking forward to see what he could do this year. Had him as my wild card this year. I'm sure he'll be back showing the world what he is made of!

  • Comment number 46.

    A very good article but I disagree with your comments regarding Heidfeld. The article seems very bias when you consider Heidfeld has out-scored him in 2 of their 3 full seasons together.Regarding Luizzi, surely Heidfeld is by far the better option.

    To clarify, I'm not a Heidfeld fan especially(I prefer Kubica as a driver), just feel he has not had the recognition he deserves.

  • Comment number 47.

    If I was Renault, My strategy would be to go after Rubens Barrichello, he has the experience and pace required for this team, they will only need him for a year and Williams woudl be happy to accept any money they can.
    Williams can then replace Rubens with Nico H.

    Another Option, is with the link between RBR and Renault, to get one of the Toro Rosso Drivers into Renault, and hence promote Daniel Ricciardo to STR sooner.

  • Comment number 48.

    @47 Marc from OZ

    I can't see Williams letting go of Barrichello unless they were made a ridicously high offer (which Renault wouldn't pay for him anyway). He's a very experienced driver and he's a great asset to Williams in terms of car development over the course of the season. Not only do they regard him highly, I doubt Barrichello would want to go anyway as he's happy with Williams. If he went to Renault for just one season, he'd probably find himself forced to retire next year or paying to drive a Virgin car.

    What's that you say? Get rid of Petrov for 2012, keep Barrichello as team mate to Kubica if he comes back? Rubens wouldn't want to play second fiddle to Kubica and nor should he.

  • Comment number 49.

    I have respect for you as a journalist, indeed a great joy reading your work for Autosport but the article was above was pointless and arguably poor in taste.

    I fully agree Kubica is a great talent whose is unfortunate not to be in the right car but is this the time to discuss/summarise his career so far? From reading the article one would believe that Kubica is out of F1 for good.

  • Comment number 50.

    Kubica's accident may be unfortunate for Renault in having to find a new driver for the forthcoming season, but the fact that Renault and Kubica allowed the accident to occur serves them both right for being stupid in the first place.

    As for him not being a household name, are you talking with regards joe public or those that actually watch F1 on the BBC, because if it's the latter, you couldn't be far more wrong.

  • Comment number 51.

    The accident of Robert Kubica was extremely unfortunate and i wish him a speedy recovery. I hope he comes back and win the World championship like Mika Hakkinen who also suffered a horific accident.

    It is sad that a very promising career has been cut short and i am reuing the lost oppurtunity for Kubica, should this Renault have been a good championship car.

    One thing that was not mentioned anywhere is the safety issue of Rallying. I am sure if there were sufficent tyre barriers or some safety measures, then this horrific accident would have limited the injuries suffered. The safety aspects of Rallying needs to be relooked into in far more detail and avoid such situations in the future.

  • Comment number 52.

    @ 48 Paddy Nesbitt
    Paddy
    What I'm saying is that from the current crop of drivers available, Barrichello would be the best fit for Renault because.
    1 Renault could entice him as the car would be superior to Williams
    2 His ability to develop the car is second to none
    3 His speed
    4 This may be his last chance to win a GP
    5 Don't worry about 2012) and what Renault does with Petrov of even if Robert comes back there are too many variables, Massa could be available in 2012, Webber may be out of a drive, Nico R may have had enough of the team favouring Michael etc etc..
    I am viewing this form a Renault point of view, yes they can get Heidfeld, Fissi etc etc, but will they perform as good as what Rubens can in the short term? the season starts in a few weeks.

  • Comment number 53.

    In addition to 52

    Maybe Sutil could also fit in the categories 1 to 5 mentioned above, and Vijay M is keen for the dollar, hence he may accept a payout for his driver just like Frank W might also be tempted to.

  • Comment number 54.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery Robert. The season will not be the same without you. I have my money on you being F1 champ this year. The car looks to be performing well. Good luck!!

  • Comment number 55.

    #44, whilst i dont disagree with what you are saying, this accident could have easily happened in the first F1 test of the year.

    Would you work for a company who said you couldnt participate in other interests? I dont think so...

    Even Renault senior management have backed him saying they didnt want a coporate man. They knew the risks and so did he.

    All being said, i wish him all the best and no doubt in my mind that we will see him back in F1 before the end of the season baring any complications.

  • Comment number 56.

    All my support goes to Robert Kubica . Hope will get to see soon in action at the best of his abilities.

    Great news this morning to hear that he might recover faster than originally scheduled.

  • Comment number 57.

    @ian

    "It seems Rob Smedley will have to bring out the best in Felipe again and get him back to the front "

    Back to the front? Don't you watch F1?

    Don't you mean back to second place, behind Alonso? Lets remember, Felipe isn't allowed to be at the front!

  • Comment number 58.

    Kubica is indeed an excellent driver: he consistently out-qualified and out-performed his team-mate last season by some considerable margin. This season will be the poorer without him, and it's difficult to imagine Petrov having number 1 driver status - perhaps Heidfeld is the answer, as you suggested.

    Like everyone else on here, I wish Robert a full recovery, and sincerely hope to see him behind an F1 wheel again before too long.

  • Comment number 59.

    @34 - BBC Gravy.
    I think Andrew’s article is written OK, although I agree RE: gushing.

    I occasionally write on this blog but am constantly knocked by the Moderator - mainly as I'm critical of the BBC TV coverage and particularity online content.

    The facts are these:
    Kubica out injured. Renault need a replacement. Likely to be either Kimi or Heidfelt.
    One issue not yet raised is what was he doing rallying in the first place. Let's face it, impact injuries of this sort aren't unknown in this sport. If he hadn't have been rallying, this wouldn't have happened. If I was Mr Renault, I'd be just a bit miffed. My hope is that this doesn't end his career. As mentioned ad nausium, Kubica is a real talent and it would be a shame if his career was ended prematurely.

    On my initial point, will the BBC get hold of the content and perhaps change passwords to put an end to this inane twittering, especially from Mr H, so perhaps he’s be better suited to going back to CBeebies.

  • Comment number 60.

    @57 Yes I do watch F1. Rob talks most of the lap to Felipe to keep him motivated and it spurs Felipe on cos he likes the sound of his engineer having a conversation with him as he races. Thats what did it for him 2008.

    It is awful how Ferrari are treating Massa. Because for the best part of 2 years he was team leader and the number 1 driver on equals with Kimi. But the way they have forced him out of Alonso's way is a sign that a whole new management set up is needed on the Ferrari pit wall and Chris Dyer needs bringing back to the races because there will only be Rob Smedley fighting for Felipe's side on that pit wall this year. The messages are so going to be controversial this year.

    "Felipe move over for Alonso. Stefano is ordering you to do it for the team again." These awful tactics will be played everywhere. I prefer the team orders ban anyday.

  • Comment number 61.

    Hope you'll get back soon Robert .. but please leave the rallying to those who know best and stick to the track.

  • Comment number 62.

    I'm not the first to say it, but he will recover and win the F1 World Champs one day. He's a quality driver.

  • Comment number 63.

    Obviously i share everyone's opinion in wishing Kubica a full recovery and a speedy return to Formula 1.

    Now, who's going to replace him? Barrichello? Hulkenberg? Sutil? Heidfeld? Senna? - we can speculate all we like, but there's only one condition that will decide Robert's (temporary) replacement. MONEY!. Yes, thats right folks, Renault (Lotus if you like) will have already written off the season as a lost opportunity and will give the drive to whoever costs less, brings in more money and generates more revenue from interest in the driver. There are NO AVAILABLE drivers anywhere near the quality of Kubica. They'll simply have to settle for the best they can get and hope Robert can come back next year.

    I await the announcement of Kubica's replacement with great interest.
    Go on Renault (lotus), prove me wrong and sign someone from OUTSIDE F1 who can run a car up near the front, PLEASE !!

  • Comment number 64.

    Great article and some very interesting comments.

    I really like Kubica, obviously a great driver and seems like an extremely likeable and professional chap off the racetrack.

    Not sure where I really stand on drivers taking part on "dangerous activities" outside of F1. These are real racers who enjoy the buzz of dangerous sports and i'm sure the team bosses want to make sure that stays in the drivers personalities. However, the team invest a lot of time and money in making these cars race winners and surely the drivers must feel they owe it to the team to make sure they're 100% fit for every race. Not just for the highly paid designers and bosses, but the forgotten men who do regular admin work with average paid jobs and mortgages - they're all depending on the drivers to score points and bring the money in.

    I would like to see Senna driving for Renault in 2011 and show what he can do in a decent car. Otherwise what is the point of him being the first choice reserve driver if he isn't going to get a race. They may as well just give them all titles of test drivers.

  • Comment number 65.

    I remember when Nannini lost his right arm in a helicoptor crash. Sounds like a similar type of injury. he was not able to return to F1 driving.

    I am sad to say I dont think Kubica will ever be back in F1. All those buttons, no power steering. Its unlikely he will get full recovery of his right hand/arm.

    A terrible waste of a great driver.

  • Comment number 66.

    Very sad news indeed regarding Robert. Always been a fan of his and hope he returns because he deserves at least one shot at the Championship.

    Regarding the replacement, I am simply a fan of the young man because of his great uncle and to be honest I have watched him in other formulas before F1 and he has the talent now he just needs the chance in a decent car. Look at it this way...could it be fate? Could it be fate that Bruno Senna's career takes off from now in the gold and black Lotus Renault that echo's the great cars his uncle drove? I really hope so. To see that iconic helmet once again in a black and gold lotus. Who wouldn't want that! However again my best wishes to Robert. I think he will come back after a season out to Ferrari!

  • Comment number 67.

    Kubica's injury is a great loss to the sport this season, but hopefully he'll be back towards the end of the year to prove he deserves a top drive next season.

    The irony of this is the ideal replacement for Kubica would be to convince Lotus to transfer one of their drivers, gaining a great driver with lots of experience in return for providing resources and technical knowledge which could bring their team further up the grid.

    Can't see that happening now with all the arguments between the teams, but I wonder if gaining Heiki in return for allowing Team Lotus to use that name would be a victory for both teams.

  • Comment number 68.

    So sad.

    Everyone who knew a bit about the sport knew that - given a sniff of a competitive car - Kubica would clean up. The irony is, it was looking like this might be the season.

    Just one factual inaccuracy in your article: Alonso & Vettel may be up there with Kubica, but... Lewis Hamilton??? Crikey, I know he's british, but you're really having a giraffe. Kubica is twice the driver.

  • Comment number 69.

    Heidfeld would be a damp squib. He's a solid driver, but hardly likely to pull up trees and certainly not in the class of Kubica. Renault might be better taking a gamble on Hulkenberg or plucking a kid from oblivion and seeing how they get on.

    I'm not sure Kubica will be back. From what's been reported he nearly lost his hand. And will he want to get back in a race car either after such a bad accident?

  • Comment number 70.

    Serioulsy, how can anyone put Vettel and Alonso in the same bracket as Schumacher and Senna? Alonso is only good when the outright no.1 driver, look what happend in 2007 when he was at Mclaren, he nearly got his team thrown out of the championship, what a good team player!! He isnt fit to lace Sennas boots! With Vettel it is a little premature to make these comparisions to say the least!

  • Comment number 71.

    Absolutely gutted to hear that Kubica won't be around this season, a guy who I've always respected. As to who might replace him, if I was Renault...

    Plan A: Raikonen.

    Plan B: Hulkenburg.

    If neither of those plans works Renault's season is over already!

  • Comment number 72.

    52. At 04:28am on 08 Feb 2011, Marc from OZ wrote:

    @ 48 Paddy Nesbitt
    Paddy
    What I'm saying is that from the current crop of drivers available, Barrichello would be the best fit for Renault because....#
    -------------
    He ISNT available though. Heidfeld is and wouldnt require a release feee, Hulkenberg could also be

    And anyone advocating Senna or Chandok needs their heads read. Renault need one capable driver alongside Petrov, not another walking billboard.

  • Comment number 73.

    As for Massa getting his Mojo back? Sorry but last season you saw the real Massa, he had one good season in 2008, that was the outlayer, that was the odd year.

  • Comment number 74.

    Just one factual inaccuracy in your article: Alonso & Vettel may be up there with Kubica, but... Lewis Hamilton??? Crikey, I know he's british, but you're really having a giraffe. Kubica is twice the driver.
    ----------
    GK, that is not a factual comment it is an opinion, one that the vast majority of F1 fans would disagree with you on.

  • Comment number 75.

    Truly gutted for Robert, he's one of the best F1 drivers out there, and it's good to know that he's likely to recover from this and race again.

    As for who will now race for Renault, obviously they have Bruno Senna still lurking as a test driver. Niko Hulkenberg's only a 3rd driver for Force India, as is Fisichella for Ferrari and Yamamoto I think is with Hispania so there's plenty of options, even Anthony Davidson maybe?! I would love to see Kimi back, though. Having yet another former World Champion on the grid would be amazing!

  • Comment number 76.

    A true driver, hope he gets well soon. Am I right in thinking that Massa's contract is coming to an end soon too? Now was the time to shine...

  • Comment number 77.

    I AM TRULY GUTTED FOR ROBERT HE WAS QUCICK IN TESTING LAST WEEK WHAT A SHAME HE IS A FANTASTIC DRIVER HE WILL BE A WORLD CHAMPION ONE DAY HE CAME BACK FROM THE HORROR 07 CRASH AT MONTREAL HE WILL BOUNCE BACK SO GET WELL ROBERT

  • Comment number 78.

    Arsenal 1980 - you have to be joking.

    I'm prepared to accept Ayrtons 'otherworld' driving skills as well as Schumi's relentless ambition, but to exclude Alonso from the group is very blinkered.

    Fact is - they are all flawed. You don't think Senna wanted any team to be centric to him? Why then did he prevent Warwick from being his teamate at Lotus? He knew that Lotus could only produce 1 quick car in the team and he didn't want a quick driver in the other car diverting concenration and resources. It was singlemindedness. Aytron had it. So does Alonso.

    Schumi - this is a guy that when under extreme pressure will do ANYTHING to win or maintain position. Hill in '94, Jacques in '97. Parking the car across the track in Monaco to prevent a quicker lap by Alonso. Expecting 'gifted' wins from teamates, almost putting Rubens in the wall last year. He is singleminded to a dangerous degree.

    I raved about them both but - Flawed - all of them. How are you judging these people? As humans or drivers? Would I want to lace the boots of someone who would rather drive me into the wall rather than lose in a straight fight to me on the track?

    What we know of Alonso and have so far seen of Vettel any on-track trangressions they have made have been racing ones and not borne out of an inability to accept that sometimes you may have to lose.

    Did Alonso know about 'Crashgate' before it happened? Did Schumi know he had 'banned' traction control on his Benetton? Who knows and who cares anymore? But it is important to retain a balanced view of these men. They are just that after all

    Kubica has shown that also in his relatively short career. Hard, fair racing. Unbelievably quick and resolute. Just a man in waiting for the right car and opportunity. Whether he gets it now is the big question.

    He just loves to drive. So much so that he did it in other fields of motorsport to fulfil his passion. Maybe he isn't or wasn't then singleminded enough to be an F1 champion. Probably makes him a better man though and that makes him a real champion in my view.

  • Comment number 79.

    Awful news.. Shades of Alessandro Nannini in 1990 when he had that awful accident which ended his F1 career.. Hope he makes a full recovery and is still able to show the full potential of his talent..

    This is now a great opportunity for Nico Hulkenberg and Bruno Senna - I'd probably go for Hulkenberg as he has got potential and was very unlucky to be dumped by Williams.

  • Comment number 80.

    Certain Italian was asked after visiting Robert in hospital "When do you think Robert will be back in F1 car?" he answered "When does the European leg of F1 starts?", "In three months." - "That's your answer" Rober WILL win Monaco this year...

  • Comment number 81.

    Firstly, best wishes to Robert...get well soon, F1 is a poorer place without you, in a competitive car or not...

    Various people are getting talked about on here to replace him, but Eric Boullier has said it's between Senna, Heidfeld, and Liuzzi...

    Heidfeld is Mr Consistent, but not Mr Dynamic or Mr Exciting; there is a reason why he's not won a GP, and the 2011 Renault is not going to change that, plus he'll be a stop-gap filler

    Liuzzi has had some opportunities, and let's be honest, not really done enough to convince anyone that he's going to be a front runner, even in a top car...

    Senna has not really had much of an opportunity to prove himself at the top level, a number of races in a poor handling, uncompetitive Hispania didn't really prove a lot; it might be a brave move, but I think Renault should give Bruno a chance to prove himself in a good (if not great) car. If he makes too many mistakes then swap him for Grosjean, who has some F1 experience, and either way, they may find someone to replace the, so far, inconsistent Petrov...

    So, come on EB & Renault, be bold...give Bruno Senna the chance he deserves, you may discover a talented F1 driver

    ...and more importantly, get well soon Robert, I think pretty much everyone who follows F1 will agree.

  • Comment number 82.

    Lets be straight up and honest.. He isn't that great a driver.
    Shame the accident happened but should have stuck to the F1 simulator than trying to show off in a rally car..

    Just ask kimi about crashes in rallying and Renault should have known better to allow this to happen.

  • Comment number 83.

    Robert kubica is long overdue some reconition for his ability behind the wheel and no nonsense approach to good old fashion racing,with that said as a fan i hope he makes a full and speedy recovery.
    Was looking forward to this season so much thank god that kobayashi will still be on the grib :)

  • Comment number 84.

    Like everyone else I'm all too aware of the dangers of motor racing. Robert Kubica's accident and subsequent injuries still though did stun me. I am one of the many who have been impressed by his ability and his, at least publicly, attitude and personality. Hope springs eternal so I'm wishing like mad that Mr Kubica is strong enough physically and keen enough mentally to eventually return to the sport with undiminished skill.

  • Comment number 85.

    Whilst I wish Robert Kubica a speedy recovery, you have to question what caused this crash.
    From what I've read, he was on his way to the start of the rally when the crash happened; correct me if I'm wrong....
    Looking at the photographs of the car particularly those from the rear showing it impaled on a crash barrier that has been bent through 180 degrees, it would appear that this was a high speed crash.
    As far as I am aware, FIA rules state that competitors should obey all local road laws on their way to / from and between Rally Stages, looking at the severity of the damage to Kubica's car and his injuries, it is clear that this may not have been the case, he was not on a closed rally stage but open public roads, what would have been the consequences for an innocent party coming the other way, or pedestrian in the road?
    I remember a few years ago the Lombard RAC Rally being targeted by traffic police with speed guns, now we know why.....

  • Comment number 86.

    I'd love to see Chandok in a competitive car like a few others above.

  • Comment number 87.

    Get well soon Robert!

    Surely this is a chance for Renault to get Hulkenburg to put his money where his mouth is, its adittionally Hulkenburgs chance to show to everyone he is worthy of what he thinks he is worthy for.

    Its the best chance Renault have of damage mitigation right now - Who knows? In 3 to 4 months time it could be a Kubica / Hulkenburg line up!

  • Comment number 88.

    When I heard the news about Robert Kubica on Sunday I was in shock. The guy is an excellent driver who always seems to get the best out of cars that aren't as good as some of the others.

    What was more of a shock is that he recorded the fastest time in last weeks pre-test at Valencia and with the new look Lotus-Renault I really thought that 2011 could be his year especially as the new look car was getting so much attention last week.

    I hope he has a speedy recovery and we see his talent again on the track soon. But questions have to be asked should he be taking part in a rally with just 35 days or so until the start of the new F1 season.

    I wonder if Kimi Raikkonen has been asked to return for 1 year?

    Get well soon Robert!

  • Comment number 89.

    It is a shame and good luck to him in making a full recovery, but all drivers in any class know the risks. I would like to see another english driver in the mix, Anthoy Davidson would be a fantastic option never really getting a car under him that he deserved. Maybe Renault should have A 'DRIVE' off, and do it similar to qualifying 5 drivers down to three and ten 10 minutes to set your pole time, winner gets the drive.

  • Comment number 90.

    All the best to Kubica a great driver! Mika Hakkinen anyone remember him? You know the guy who Michael Schumacher said was the best competitor to drive against! He seemed to bounce into the worlds eyes after a nasty crash. Wonder if Robert will do the same, hope so!

  • Comment number 91.

    I have to say I think you are being very harsh on Nick Heidfeld here, Andrew. Anytime he beat Kubica you make some kind of excuse for the pole such as 'not liking the tyres in 07' or being demotivated for 09. The bald facts are that during their 3 and a half years as team-mates, Quick Nick not only outscored Kubica he also outqualified him more often than not. This would seem to be at odds with your summary of Heidfeld as being 'Consistent but not setting the world on fire'. Perception is everything in F1 and Heidfeld is seen as consistent but not in the same league as Kubica whereas the facts show this is untrue. I very much like you as a journalist and am disappointed you have fallen into the traps others have of lazily writing Nick Heidfeld off as consistent but nothing more than that. He is at least at Kubica's level and head and shoulders above Liuzzi and Senna.

  • Comment number 92.

    I disagree with all these people saying he shouldn't have been rallying, how is a driver supposed to stay race sharp? All racing drivers love to race adn with the lack of testing a driver needs to keep his eye/hand in with car control and everything else, doesn't matter about simulators they just aren't the same. I have enjoyed watching Robert Kubica for the last few seasons and have thought that at some point he car would come good and he would start winning, a lot. We have seen some great comebacks from injury over the years in all classes of motorsport and it sounds like Robert has that same drive, determination and stubborness that Lauda had as well as people like Barry Sheene and Rossi. Fingers crossed that Robert will be back on the grid soon and makes a return when he is ready, as to alternatives well maybe someone from F1 who is now in another series like Montoya, would he be worth it, or from a purely selfish point of view Gary Paffet? another brit on the grid always works.

  • Comment number 93.

    @85 Ianfoto: Kubica was actually 4.5km into the first stage, he was on the stage when the crash occurred so he didn't break any laws as far as I'm aware. At the time he crashed he was racing.

    I've seen the video of Brundle calling it crazy and the comments asking why he was doing it. I can see two reasons why he would do it: one, he enjoys doing it and it's a hobby he's had ever since he started, and two, it helps to keep him sharp while he's not able to race for long periods. Given that there's a three month gap between the end of the season and the first test it seems like a sensible option. The simulators are incredibly high quality, there's no denying it, but that's what they are, a simulator.

    I guess he's happier by practicing with the real thing in a competitive environment and looking at his performances in his career so far it must be working, so why change it? It can only be a benefit to have both the F1 skill set and the rallying skill set. I'm sure Bruno and Karun would agree after driving the Hispania this year, it spent as much time going sideways as it did forwards.

    It was an accident that noone could predict. The WRC guys regularly walk away from incredible crashes without injury, simply look up Jari-Matti Latvala's crash in Portugal in 2009 on youtube for an example. I can only guess, and this is only speculation on my part before anyone berates me, that something may have failed on impact or that there was a weak point that was penetrated by the wall. On another day he may have hit the wall and just climbed out unhurt.

    Whether it was right or wrong for Renault to allow him to compete in it is subjective to how you assess benefit against risk: keeping your driver motivated and on form against the possibility of the awful injuries Robert sustained. Renault must have decided the former was important and the risk was low. Unfortunately the worst case scenario happened.

    All we can do now is wish him a rapid recovery and that he'll back in F1 soon. I wish him luck with the surgery tomorrow on his foot and shoulder and the same for his elbow next week. We hope to see that yellow and black helmet back at the front soon, ready to be the 2012 champion.

  • Comment number 94.

    I really feel for Robert. I was looking forward to seeing him this season. And it was so unfortunate for the lad. But these things happen, F1 is a risky game. Wish him the best of luck in his recovery. I'd rather Heidfield take his place than Senna. Only because i'd like to see Renault with a chance of challenging this year.

  • Comment number 95.

    "And Lopez stressed the importance of choosing the right man to deputise for the 16-year-old Pole, who will undergo further surgery on Friday"

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/9392434.stm

    The most successful 16 year old F1 racer

    Best of luck for a full recovery, then a decent car


  • Comment number 96.

    I'm one of several that think Ferrari should have got Kubica when they hired Alonso.

    Renault need to test Kimi.

    If they're holding a test for Quick Nick they need to get Kimi in for a test too.

    Look at the anticipation, excitement and hype over the return of Schumacher last year and as a stand in for Massa the year before. Even Kimi just testing would help the preseason hype and spotlight that F1 constantly needs.

    They need an experienced hand alongside Petrov to help develop the car and maximise the potential of that chassis.

    They need to test Quick Nick against Kimi.

    Would Kimi be as good as Heidfeld from a developmental perspective?

  • Comment number 97.

    renault should hire kimi heifeld can not fight for the title as for senna and the italian bloke kimi has won a world title and can fight for the title again kimi renault 2011 that makes sense go kimi

  • Comment number 98.

    Hope Robert can recover quickly..he's a great loss to Renault this season
    as they made a good car that can possibly be a title contender just like when Fernando started with Renault.

    As for Nick though, he is like Kimi, Jensen and Lewis. Given a competitive car(the fastest I mean) he knows what to do.. the results will always show

    Good Luck to Renault..

    F1 is getting exciting every week as the season is just about to start :D

  • Comment number 99.

    Interesting article, and some news for me.

  • Comment number 100.

    Have to wish Kubica a good recovery
    Hope when he comes back he starts winning and has a good car for the World Championship.

    Maybe Kubica might be a Ferrari driver come 2013 depends on Alonso and Massa.

    @10@ Fisichella probably wouldn't have the speed to take over Kubica.
    @12@ Senna could be a good replacement. Grosjean absoultey not he was rubbish in Renault back in 2009. Fauzy maybe. Not Raikkonen as he prefers WRC and not Heidfeld. Heidfeld has had some chances and taken them/
    @17@ Liuzzi is overrated
    Well done Alonso

 

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