Current Williams driver Robert Kubica is one of a ‘handful of candidates’ for a seat in next year’s car according to Williams Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams.
Kubica has endured a torrid comeback season in 2019, being outpaced in every qualifying session and finding himself 10-2 down in race finishes to his rookie team mate George Russell.
If his intention pre-season was to demonstrate that he’s still capable of great things in a Formula 1 car and deserving of a second season or a seat higher up the grid, then he’ll be thoroughly disappointed with the way he’s struggled to make any kind of impression on his return to F1 after an eight-year absence from Formula 1, in a poorly-performing Williams FW42 he’s found difficult to master.
This lack of speed has raised questions about Kubica’s future and whether either he or Williams will have the inclination to continue the partnership beyond the end of this year.
Williams have a third driver – Canadian Nicholas Latifi – currently impressing in F2 and gaining valuable F1 experience with the odd FP1 outing every now and again, and crucially whose parents are super wealthy and are likely to be able to match any financial package Kubica is able to muster.
It would appear that Latifi is Kubica’s main competition for the 2020 drive (if Kubica feels inclined to compete after such a disheartening season).
However, Esteban Ocon’s appointment as Renault’s second driver has left seasoned F1 campaigner and ex-Williams pilot Nico Hulkenberg without a drive.
Many onlookers suggest that he’s likely to be recruited by Haas to partner Kevin Magnussen, which would leave Romain Grosjean – another F1 fixture (or should that be f1xture?? No? Okay then…) – out of a drive.
Either way, and with alternatives limited, an experienced driver is likely to be out of a job, and if either or both of them is keen to continue in Formula 1 rather than disappearing to FormulaE or WSC then he might just complete the ‘handful’ Claire Williams is referring to.
If I were a betting man, my money would be firmly on Latifi. He’s got the talent, he’s got the cash, he knows and is known to Williams and he’ll be happy to get into F1 whether it’s at the front or the back.
Crucially, at the end of this year he’ll also have, for the first time, the required number of superlicense points to allow him to race in F1.
I think Kubica’s time in Formula 1 is sadly coming to an end.
I hope in years to come we’re celebrating the fact that he was able to return at all, rather than lamenting his inability to compete.