It’s the autumn of 2018 and Williams are in the midst of their worst season in their entire 41 year participation in Formula 1.
SMP, then Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin’s primary backer, disgruntled at the team’s performance, decide that they’d rather not extend their & Sirotkin’s deal for another season figuring that Williams’ asking price was too high for a drive that was intended to showcase the Russian’s talents, but flaws with the 2018 FW41 had failed to give him that opportunity.
Williams turn to their development driver for 2019, Robert Kubica.
Kubica, now with financial backing from Polish petro-chemical company Orlen is keen to get back into a full-time seat to demonstrate that he’s capable of what nobody else in the history of the sport has been able to – return to Formula 1 after a forced hiatus of eight years and find himself competitive.
Kubica carries with him the effects of a life-changing rally crash in the Rally of Andorra that limits the mobility in his right arm which, allied with his time away from Formula 1, prompts many onlookers to question whether or not he’s now physically able to cope with the rigours of a 21 race long Formula 1 season in a modern F1 car designed to be demanding to pilot.
Williams, keen for an injection of cash at a time when a big money title-sponsorship deal with Martini had come to an end, see Kubica as a risk, but one worth taking given his existing relationship with the team, the effort he’d invested in his year as development driver, and the money he brings with him from Orlen.
Kubica, having spent a year as Williams’ development driver, knows the setup of the team. He knows where it is in terms of performance and championship standing (ie not great) but no other team is willing to take a chance on him and so this is his one opportunity to get back into Formula 1, full-time.
Kubica can only hope that Williams have remedied their 2018 ails and are able to give him a car with which he could represent, fighting for points minimum and the odd podium here and there if it’s in the offing.
It’s a risk for Williams, as it is for Kubica.
Sadly, it’s quickly obvious that Williams’ 2019 challenger is even worse than their 2018 car, and Kubica a shadow of the driver who once threatened to upset the likes of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, now comfortably slower than his rookie team-mate George Russell.
Cut to 17 races into the 2019 F1 season and the risk hasn’t paid off for either party.
With their relationship about to come to an end (Kubica declared his intention to jump ship at the end of the season (perhaps before he was pushed)), Poland’s only Formula 1 driver’s unhappiness at how his comeback has unravelled is starting to reveal itself in some pretty acerbic comments, mostly directed towards the team.
Having crashed out of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix (through driver error), an enraged Kubica said:
“This Sunday morning helped me to understand things properly. I had been already aware of certain things but this morning some boundaries were crossed.”
Despite Williams publicly declaring that the single experimental front wing they’d brought to Suzuka would be used in practice only, Kubica seemed unhappy he didn’t get to use it on Sunday:
“For some strange reasons the wing was removed before qualifying”
“I think this decision was not connected with the track, it had more to do with other choices. That’s it.” he went on, conveniently forgetting that if his car had been fitted with the single new front wing, it would now be destroyed after his visit to the wall, vindicating Williams’ decision to hold it back on Sunday.
Kubica went on to finish the race a minute and a half behind team-mate Russell after the Williams’ team worked flat out to rebuild his car in the four hours between qualifying (delayed until Sunday morning as a result of Typhoon Hagibis) and Sunday afternoon’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Kubica seems to be seeking to lay the blame for his annus horribilis and the subsequent curtailment of his F1 return entirely at Williams’ door (the front wing being the latest in a series of ways the dastardly Williams team have cruelly sabotaged Kubica’s season according to the Pole and his band of online devotees).
Sadly, all Kubica’s comments are doing is whipping said devotees into a frenzy of unpleasantness on and offline and souring what should have been a positive return to the racetrack irrespective of results.
Both parties knew the stakes when they chose to gamble. And though it was worth a shot, the gamble hasn’t paid off.
Let’s not turn over tables and start a fight with the bookie before the shop closes though eh?