First and foremost, Kubica was one of the fastest drivers on the grid during his time at BMW Sauber and Renault. And had he not nearly lost his right hand to a 2011 rally incident, he very well may have developed into a world champion.
As recent tests for Renault and Williams indicate, he can still compete at a high level. Only a few movements were uncomfortable or impossible, but that could be worked around through steering wheel design.
But problem No. 1 is provided by the current F1 car. Kubica tested in a pair of 2014 cars, some of the least physically demanding cars in recent Formula 1 history. The machines on the grid this year, by comparison, are the toughest, and within a year of development, the 2018 regulations should be even tougher. And this might be a step too far for the Polish star.
Problem No. 2 surrounds just how much time Kubica has been away from the discipline.
Yes, he has competed in the World Rally Championship, which is tough in itself, but it’s a completely different challenge from Grand Prix circuit racing. Being more positive about any potential drive for 2018, if Kubica can cope with the stresses of the cars, he will be bang on the money. Maybe he won’t be winning grands prix, but he would be capable of scoring points on a fairly regular basis.
For any team brave enough to take a chance on his endurance, Kubica will bring a raft of good PR and attention to the team. As a former grand prix winner and with a fairy-tale story of beating the odds to make a comeback, the media will not be able to get enough of him.
To put it bluntly, signing Kubica would be a sponsor’s dream.
That said, the problems outweigh the positives at face value. Signing Kubica would be a real game of chance, and in a results-based business, it’s up to the individual to decide whether that is a risk too far.
Williams is a team with championship aspirations down the road. With Lance Stroll improving vastly over the course of the season, this is a team that may not be the best fit for Kubica. The only reason for Williams to take the risk is sponsor Martini’s requirement that one driver is older than 25 for marketing purposes.
Ultimately, Kubica returning to the sport would be a fairy tale, but F1 is not a fairy-tale business, with little room for sentiment. The signing of Kubica would be pure sentiment with a slight chance of success — a PR dream but a sporting risk too far.