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Robert Kubica drives 2012-spec Renault F1 car in private test

Former F1-driver Robert Kubica stepped back behind the wheel of F1 machinery today, six years after being sidelined from the championship following a horrific Rally crash. The 32-year old drove a repainted 2012 Lotus E20, now owned and operated by Renault, who took over the Lotus outfit prior to the 2016 season.

Kubica drove the car at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain; the site of his last drive in an F1 car after having conducted pre-season testing for Lotus Renault GP prior to the 2011 Formula One season. It is not known whether Renault is considering Kubica for a race seat in the not too distant future, but he completed 115 laps during the day – an impressive tally for a driver who’s F1 career was all but over a few years ago.

It was six years ago that Kubica received his potentially career-ending injuries whilst driving in Ronde di Andora rally. His Skoda Fabia crashed at high speed into a guard-rail which in turn penetrated the cockpit and partially severed his right arm.

The injuries Kubica sustained were enough to put him out of Formula One, seemingly for good. This was awful news as the Polish driver looked to be one of the rising stars and potential world champions of the future. He joined the Formula One field in 2006 after 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve left BMW Sauber mid-season. After flashes of brilliance, Kubica well and truly broke out in 2008 when he won his first race at the Canadian Grand Prix – one year after being involved in a terrifying accident at the same circuit – before going on to finish fourth in the championship standings; level on points with reigning champion Kimi Raikkonen.

BMW would sadly lose pace for 2009, which would prove to be their year as a manufacturer entry into the sport before handing back full ownership to Sauber. Kubica would move to Renault for the 2010 season and would again show his pace with several podiums throughout the year. All signs were pointing toward a strong season in 2011 when the team were bought by Lotus, but Kubica’s accident after pre-season testing cut those hopes short; with the Polish driver having to watch from the sidelines as his planned team-mate Vitaly Petrov and his replacement Nick Heidfeld scored podiums in the first two races.

Despite his injuries initially proving single seater racing to be nigh on impossible, Kubica wouldn’t let them stop him from racing. He got back behind the wheel of a rally car in 2012 for the Ronde Gomitolo Di Lana and won by a full minute. Further rallying exploits would follow, with Kubica winning the WRC2 championship in 2013 before graduating to the main WRC championship after that.

In the last few months, Kubica seems to have been focusing once again on circuit racing. He tested a World Endurance Championship LMP1 car fielded by ByKolles Racing and was signed to race in this year’s season. The deal sadly went awry, however, due to unknown reasons. Since then, he has also tested Formula E machinery at Donington Park.

As for today’s F1 test, Kubica has made no official comment on how the day went. According to some, he is believed to have set a faster lap time than Renault’s reserve driver, Sergey Sirotkin. This has not been confirmed by the team, however. The only official word from the team on Twitter was that “Robert complained about grip, understeer, downforce and had the biggest smile on after his 115 laps!!’

So what happens now? Speculation has been rife over the last few weeks regarding Jolyon Palmer’s future at Renault after a more than disappointing start to the season. Sergey Sirotkin and Sebastien Buemi have already been rumoured to be in the running to replace the British driver; with a change even thought to be possible mid-season. Would the team consider re-installing Kubica into the fold? Further testing would have to take place to make sure that his arm issues wouldn’t trouble him, especially considering the increased physical exertion that has shown to be a factor in driving the much faster 2017-spec Formula One cars. However, it would be a fantastic sight to see Robert Kubica back behind the wheel during a race weekend after all that he’s gone through.

The next Grand Prix of the 2017 Formula One world championship takes place this weekend at Canada’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, a fan favourite and the location of many fantastic races in the last few years; including Kubica’s sole Formula One victory nine years ago.

Featured Image courtesy of Renault Sport F1 on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RenaultSportF1/

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