With Carlos Sainz Jr set to take over the second Renault seat thanks to the ongoing saga between Renault, Honda, Toro Rosso and McLaren, there are still only a handful of seats left for next season which would be viable for Robert Kubica, one of which being at Williams.
Kubica’s steady return to Formula 1 action in 2017 has been widely regarded as one of the biggest sporting comebacks in history and rightly so. Now in contention for a racing seat in 2018, is Kubica the right man to replace Felipe Massa?
What’s in it for Williams?
Given Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso are potentially on the market and are likely to be higher on the shortlist than Kubica, it may be hard to see why Williams would want to take him.
Should Perez and Alonso stay put, Williams has the prime option on a previous grand prix winner, who is highly regarded by almost anyone who saw what he was capable of.
With 76 previous F1 starts under his belt, Kubica’s previous race appearances should be more than enough to help provide the technical feedback required for development moving forward as Paddy Lowe hinted at ‘substantial changes‘ within Williams to address its recent form.
The FW41 will also be the first car built with Lowe’s influence and oversight, and there is a distinct possibility that the Grove outfit has the chance to rediscover its form and move further up the grid. Putting Kubica in that car could be a key ingredient in finding the speed the team is after.
One other added bonus is it will likely give Lance Stroll another benchmark to compare himself to. While Felipe Massa is a solid driver in his own right, having a younger driver in Kubica (especially if he can unlock the speed from his former career) will certainly give the Canadian something to aim for.
Development out of the spotlight
At a team like Williams, Kubica has the opportunity to return to F1 in 2018 without the spotlight being directly aimed at him. Given the nature of the battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton at the top of the field, the main focus of the media’s attention will be fixed upon their ever growing ferocious rivalry.
While there is always going to be some media attention in his direction due to his accomplishments and progression, it wouldn’t be as much as if he were joining as Hamilton’s team-mate at Mercedes for example.
Should a few hiccups happen along the way, the repercussions would also not be as noticed given where he and the team are likely to be positioned within the grid. this would allow for of a freedom to push himself and the team’s development of the car as the season progresses.
Nothing to lose
Given the relative positions of both team and driver, neither have anything to lose by going into this partnership, whether it is something that could be short or long-term going forward.
If the opportunity was not to work out for whatever reason, it doesn’t leave either party in a precarious position with regards to sponsors, cash flow or even reputation. Both parties only stand to benefit from this link-up should it happen for 2018.
Plenty of detractors out there are quick to dismiss the Pole due to his age and lack of experience in a current hybrid car against those already on the grid. Also with a new raft of drivers making their marks in junior formulae, there is also the argument a younger talent needs to be given the opportunity.
While that point could be argued, it must also be contested Kubica was regarded as one of the very best drivers in his former F1 career by the likes of Hamilton and Alonso.
With Williams still under Martini sponsorship for one final year, it requires a driver to be 25-years old or over to be in the car. While some may see this as a silly contractual clause, it has to be adhered to nonetheless.
If we still operate under the premise Alonso and Perez stay put, Jolyon Palmer, Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Massa are the only other candidates eligible enough to take up that Williams seat.
Although Pascal Wehrlein is likely to be ousted from Sauber for the hot property that is Formula 2 championship leader Charles Leclerc, it doesn’t allow the German to be in the fray at Williams due to being only 23-years old.
It’s hard to say what chances Kubica has of successfully joining Williams, but his story is one of ‘What if’? He is motivated more than ever in making a return the sport he made such a mark on in such a small amount of time.
Despite being slightly out of sync with regards to fitness, as shown in his Hungary test with Renault, given the opportunity to prepare for a full season there shouldn’t be too much doubt he would be up to the task.
F1 may be a sport which very rarely hands out second chances, but it has been done in the past, and if there was ever a case for another right now, Kubica is it.