Robert Kubica is a name that may spark many thoughts into the minds of Formula One fans. Reasons will differ; you may remember his 2008 Canadian Grand Prix victory, which remains as his only ever Formula One win. Some of you may remember his horror crash in 2007, again at Canada. Some of you who possibly haven’t followed Formula One may only remember him as a driver who cruised in the midfield in a Renault. However, there are people who argue that the Polish driver could’ve been one of the greats.
Kubica gathered fans quickly, after joining the sport in 2006. It took only a year for his name to truly embed itself onto the sport’s viewers. A huge shunt suffered in Canada resulted in the Pole missing out the next race in America. The Sauber driver managed to finish fourth in his return race and truly completed the feat by winning the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix – at the same circuit in which he was sent to the hospital after his horror shunt.
Another horrible car crash meant that the Pole would miss out on the 2011 season. Kubica received partial amputation of his forearm and it was later announced that he will not be fit to participate in the next season. His Renault team signed Nick Heidfeld to replace the injured Grand Prix winner, Bruno Senna also had a drive for the team in Spa. After it being announced that Kubica would also miss the 2012 season, Lotus Renault Racing signed 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen.
Kubica’s Formula One career seemed over. In late 2012 Kubica returned to WRC and won his first rally back. Still, it’s discussed as to what would’ve happened to Kubica if his luck was good rather than bad. What would he have done in the Formula One world?
A fan of Kubica’s was James Allison, his former technical director. In an article by Mark Hughes, Allison is seen saying “If we can give him a car that’s even half capable of getting a championship he’ll get one.”
Kubica was top of the Driver’s Standings after the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, a season dominated by the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen. A key factor to remember is that the Polish driver wasn’t in a championship winning car. Hamilton impressed in a speedy McLaren, Raikkonen attempted to retain his title in the legendary Ferrari and Kubica was challenging in a Sauber; teamed with German, Nick Heidfeld.
Kubica impressed everyone by finishing fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, in front of the Renault of Fernando Alonso and teammate Heidfeld. A key factor to focus on was that the Pole finished 53 points in front of German, Nico Rosberg.
Rosberg is currently racing for back-to-back Constructors’ Champions Mercedes AMG. A common argument is that Kubica was impressing and performing better than the German. Rosberg signed for Mercedes in 2010, the final season in which we saw Robert Kubica.
Rosberg did finish above Kubica in the 2009 standings but the German’s Williams car was arguably faster than the Pole’s Sauber. Both drivers were still easily comparable, but let’s try something different. Let’s say that Kubica signed for Mercedes.
James Allison said, “he’s properly committed to being a world champion, no doubt about that. He is 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.” So, if Kubica was better than his car and he did sign for Mercedes, would he be more of a threat than Rosberg to Lewis Hamilton – the current Mercedes number one driver and back-to-back World Champion?
In my opinion, I believe that Kubica was the better driver from the two. On the other hand, I can’t deny that Rosberg has heavily improved since his Williams days. It’s an argument which ha so many holes it’s almost not worth discussing. But it’s interesting.
People, such as Mark Hughes, once deemed Kubica as the best driver on the grid. But did his move to Renault deny his chances of a good future – bar the horrific rally crash the Pole suffered? Not at all.
In 2010, Kubica finished two points behind Rosberg, who was in the impressing Mercedes. Kubica’s teammate, Vitaly Petrov, finished down in thirteenth in the standings, presenting the difference in skill between the two drivers.
A point someone may notify is that Rosberg finished above teammate and seven-time World Champion, Michael Schumacher. Yes, he did. But so did Kubica, in a car with less performance than the Germans’.
Would Kubica have done a better job? We will never know. But if he was better than Rosberg he would pose a stronger threat to Hamilton. Kubica would’ve picked off some more wins thus securing more points. Hamilton is another star driver, someone who has impressed since the start. Kubica seemed to have always performed better than his car. Kubica and Hamilton would’ve been one of the great relationships. Would it have been Senna versus Prost quality? Probably not.
In the meantime, we’re only left to wonder how the politics would’ve played out, yet we stand in awe of the Pole’s quality and the disappointment of not having seen him in an F1 car for five years.