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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Robert Kubica to make F1 return in 2019 with Williams

Team announce that Pole, who nearly lost his right arm during a crash in 2011, will return to the grid next year

Williams announced on Thursday that Polish driver Robert Kubica will return to the team in 2019, nine years after his last F1 race. Getty Images
Williams announced on Thursday that Polish driver Robert Kubica will return to the team in 2019, nine years after his last F1 race. Getty Images

Polish driver Robert Kubica is to return to Formula One in 2019 with Williams, seven years after he almost lost his right hand in a horrific rally crash.

The British team made the announcement on Thursday at a news conference at Yas Marina Circuit ahead of the weekend's Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Kubica will partner rookie driver George Russell for next season

"Being back on the F1 grid next season will be one of the greatest achievements of my life, and I’m sure with hard work and commitment we will be able to help motivate the team to achieve good things together," Kubica said.

Kubica raced in 76 F1 grands prix between 2006-2010 for BMW Sauber and then Renault, winning one race. His last race in F1 came eight years ago in Abu Dhabi eight years ago when he finished fifth.

But his F1 career was brought to a dramatic halt in February 2011 when he suffered partial amputation on his arm, along with other injuries in a crash at a rally in Italy in February 2011.

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Though he recovered after an operation and rehabilitation he still has only partial movement in his hand and his arm remains noticeably thin and twisted.

The 33 year old returned to motorsport in 2013 in rallying, and he would also go on to compete in endurance racing.

He tested for both Renault and Williams in 2017, the latter being at the post-season test in Abu Dhabi.

He was hired as reserve driver at Williams for the 2018 season and his efforts have persuaded the British team to give him a race seat next year.

"Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who has helped me during what was a difficult period of my life over these last few years," said Kubica, who had said in previous interviews he thought he would never race in F1 again.

Robert Kubica's last F1 race was at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where he finished fifth for Renault. Getty Images
Robert Kubica's last F1 race was at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where he finished fifth for Renault. Getty Images

"It has been a challenging journey to make it back to the Formula One grid, but what seemed almost impossible is now beginning to feel possible.

"It has been a long road to get to this point, but as that challenge now comes to an end with this announcement, a new challenge begins working with Williams on track.

"It will not be easy, but, with hard work and dedication, both George and myself will work together to try and help the team get in better shape to move further up the grid."

Claire Williams, the Williams team principal, said of Kubica: "He has a level of determination that is remarkable to see; and he truly embodies the Williams fighting spirit.

"Having the consistency of Robert stepping up into this new role will be an important step for us as we look to fight our way back towards the front of the field."

Formula One drivers Lewis Hamilton, left, and Fernando Alonso have welcomed the return of Robert Kubica to the sport. EPA
Formula One drivers Lewis Hamilton, left, and Fernando Alonso have welcomed the return of Robert Kubica to the sport. EPA

Stars welcome Kubica back

Kubica’s return to the sport has been welcomed by the rest of the current grid.

World champion Lewis Hamilton, who will be going for a fourth win in Abu Dhabi on Sunday in his Mercedes-GP, said: "He's had a really difficult time for the last who knows how many years now and it's just great to see that he's got the opportunity back and I hope he works hard on his strength and getting his mind back into gear like he was in the past."

Fernando Alonso, the double world champion, who retires after Sunday's race, said: "It remains to be seen what will be the performance of the car, and his own performance because we only saw a couple of tests but if he is 100 percent he will be amazing to watch.”