George Russell, Robert Kubica, Williams, Suzuka, 2019

Team mate battles 2019: The final score – Russell vs Kubica

2019 F1 season review

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Williams were so lamentably far from the pace of even the next-slowest team in 2019, that the performance of their drivers was hardly a major concern for them.

However there was a clear gulf between rookie George Russell, who joined them off the back of GP3 (now Formula 3) and Formula 2 championship triumphs, and Robert Kubica, returning to F1 after an eight-year absence due to the terrible injuries he sustained in his 2011 rally crash.

This was destined not to be a fairytale return for Kubica, and not just because the FW42 was too slow and the team too often hamstrung by a parts shortage. Russell has dominated his team mate in nearly every respect.

In Spain, the two drivers swapped chassis after Kubica complained his FW42 was not handling as well as his team mate’s. The rookie out-qualified him by 1.1 seconds.

This was one of the biggest margins between them in a year when Russell was never headed by his team mate on a Saturday. Russell’s average lead was a whopping 0.6 seconds. Yet the bigger concern to all involved is the fact fundamental aerodynamic flaws on the car means both drivers failed to make it out of Q1 all season – though Russell got close in Hungary.

On Sundays, their lack of pace did not improve and both drivers occasionally had the opportunity to beat an Alfa Romeo or a Haas, but even this occurrence was rare. The most chaotic race of the season at Hockenheim provided the only opportunity for Williams to score a point all season, and it took a helping hand from the stewards who disqualified both Alfa Romeos after the race.

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Frustratingly for Russell, the team ignored his suggestions to pit during the penultimate Safety Car. He then ran wide on lap 51, which allowed Kubica to nip past and claim the final point. It was a rare shining moment in his season, but a fully merited reward for his experience.

Robert Kubica, Williams, Hockenheimring, 2019
Kubica scored team’s only point in Germany
The car’s deficiencies were such that the pair almost exclusively raced each other. Their wheel to wheel battle in Mexico, where Kubica came out on top, was one of the highlights of the race. They fought each other particularly hard at Paul Ricard, Russell incurring front wing damage as a result (a problem the team did not need given its parts shortage), and Kubica claiming one of his rare wins over his team mate.

Russell was usually the first one home, however, and sometimes by a staggering margin. In Austria he took the chequered flag a minute before Kubica, who fell so far behind Russell he ended the race as the next car ahead of him.

Kubica took it upon himself to announce in Singapore he would not return to Williams. The team will promote well-heeled F2 runner-up Nicolas Latifi in his place.

While Kubica undoubtedly would have been hoping for more from his return to Formula 1, his accomplishment in merely returning to the sport at all, given the legacy of his rally crash, is remarkable. Despite their plight, he and Russell had a friendly and productive relationship throughout the year. That, and the quality of the talent Williams has unearthed in Russell, were about the only bright spots of their 2019 campaign.

George Russell vs Robert Kubica: Key stats

George Russell vs Robert Kubica: Who finished ahead at each round

George RussellQ
Robert KubicaQ

George Russell vs Robert Kubica: Qualifying gap

Times based on the last qualifying round at each race weekend in which both drivers set a time. Negative indicates George Russell was faster, positive means Robert Kubica was faster

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Author information

Josh Holland
USA-based Josh joined the RaceFans team in 2018. Josh helps produce our Formula 1 race weekend coverage, assists with our social media activities and...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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41 comments on “Team mate battles 2019: The final score – Russell vs Kubica”

  1. One of the best looking ‘back of the grid’ cars for a few years.

    And Russell was very impressive in qualifying.

    Otherwise, they were 748 points behind Mercedes. Desperate.

    1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
      9th December 2019, 14:26

      Really? IMO the Williams was by far the ugliest car of the year, with an equally horrid paintjob. I thinklast years’ Williams, the 2017 Sauber and the Manor looked all better.
      but I guess we’re allowed to our own opinion.

      Performance was absolute garbage though. The FW41 at least at some pace at fast tracks, this thing did not.
      such a shame Russell had to be burdened with driving it. He’s genuinely fast.
      This doesn’t look very positive for them though. The FW41 was bad, the FW42 worse. They keep denying it, but next year is gonna be a write-off unless a miracle happen. Considering their financial troubles, Williams cannot let that keep happening.

      1. All in the eye of the beholder, but I thought the Williams ice blue/white wash rather striking on a bright day. Nothing compared to 2001 Minardi though…

    2. Otherwise, they were 748 (738 really) points behind Mercedes. Desperate.

      If you look at it like that then it’s not that desperate.
      Haas was also over 700pts behind Mercedes, thus a Wellbalanced observer could say Williams was a mere 4% worse than Haas.

      1. Yes, thank you for the correction- I took a stab at the number from memory.

        True what you say about Hass, and they had a at times fast car. But you could argue they too got into a pretty desperate state of affairs by season’s end.

        I’m slightly concerned for both teams going forward.

    3. This scoring system is not about expressing the results of backmarkers.
      I’d change it to something similar to Indy’s one because of this, even if it would mean dropping something historical.
      It’s a great feat for a rookie to earn his first points or to earn points for not so well running teams, but it’s not expressive.
      The most characterizing thing for a scoring system is to be expressive, and proportional for most of the cases.
      It should be head-heavy enough to reward the winner’s and podium finishers. Imo the proportions and gaps of current scoring system is not exactly fair, gaps are smaller here and bigger there even at the midfield. And it’s rewarding the second and third places a bit too much, so it should be slightly head-heavier.

      A simple solution would be something like an exponentially growing numeric sequence. Someting like 1point for the 20th, and 1.3^(drivers-placement). 1 = 1.3^(20-20) …. 146.192 = 1.3^(20-0)
      With a good base it would produce a quite good sequence. Imo being more proportional and expressive is more important than having only integers as score. The average human today has no difficulty at understanding proportions and rational numbers. And with a bit more thinking sequences could be found where points are still proportional and even closer to integers, so they could be rounded and still be more fair than the current system. The bigger the exponential sequence’s base the more easy to do so. And if that’s still not enough, use a bigger base for the podium finishers to reward them even more.
      The only thing I don’t like Indy’s scoring system, that it awards points for the race even while being super far away from being checquered.

  2. A bit unfair that Russel couldn’t catch that single point but he have plenty of time ahead. Good that Robert could leave a small mark on the board.

    I wonder what Russel thinks when he drives the Mercedes during the tests…

    1. How was it unfair? he made the mistake and drove off track. Ironic might be the better word. One of kubicas best drives was in Monaco, where people thought he wouldnt be able to make it around the lap, but he passed a couple cars including Russel and led his teammate, but the team chose to pit the car behind first under safety car, so Russel finished ahead. Russels best effort was Hungary, great driving. In about 70% of races kubica got past Russel in turn 1, kubica made up a heap of positions, about 50 I believe in lap 1 over the season. I Bet Russell is happy to have convincingly outpaced a legend, and I bet kubica is happy to come back after 8 years, disabled, and be ‘there abouts’ in the top motorsport against a future world champion. They had some good wheel to wheel battles in that terrible car.

      1. A legend???? I don’t believe Kubica is a legend in the F1 racing history.

        Even if Kubica passed Russell in 70% of the races, he was still passed and then usually finished far behind Russell.

      2. kpcart, are you sure that you haven’t misheard your figures, because the records of positions gained and lost on the first lap don’t show Kubica being anywhere near that total.

        I get the following official total:
        Australia: +1
        Bahrain: +3
        China: +2
        Baku: -2
        Spain: 0
        Monaco: +2
        Canada: +3
        France: 0
        Austria: +1
        Britain: +2
        Germany: -2
        Hungary: -1
        Belgium: +4
        Italy: +2
        Singapore: +3
        Russia: +1
        Japan: 0
        Mexico: +2
        USA: 0
        Brazil: 0
        Abu Dhabi: +1

        Total number of places gained on lap 1 = 27
        Total number of places lost on lap 1 = 5
        Net places gained on lap 1 = 22

        Kubica did end up making a net gain on the first lap over the course of the season, and made a reasonable number of places up, but he did not gain anything like 50 positions on the first lap over the course of the season – that figure overestimates how many positions he gained by about a factor of two.

        To put into perspective, Stroll, whom I believe has the best starting record in 2019, recorded nearly as many position gains on the first lap in half a season as Kubica did over the entire season (21 in the first half), and in total he gained 45 positions on lap 1 over the full season – so Kubica’s total is just 60% of what Stroll achieved.

        1. Kubica made 24 position

  3. At the end of the day, it’s the points that count!!!

    Yes, I’m kidding. Love Kubica, though. What a legend.

    1. What a shame he complained about the team this year. That is the only thing.

      1. Sometimes fairytales don’t come true…

        1. Weird that my comment attached itself to you shimks, it wasn’t intended to be a reply to you.

    2. People are weird. Kubica is legend and Lewis is still doubted if he actually is any good or just lucky

      1. Not weird, just racist

        1. I don’t think it’s racist, people said the same thing about Rosberg that he just got lucky. Whenever someone has a dominant car there’s always a question over how much speed is from the driver and how much is it luck for having a great car.

  4. One of the most one-sided performances in history despite that one point.

  5. This might be the only team where both drivers have 1 thing in which they have 100% over the other…

    1. If you take into account trivial statistics, Bottas has 100% of retirements at Mercedes due to technical issues (or actually, retirements in general).

      1. But is there also a trivial statistic in which Hamilton has a 100% over Bottas? (over last season, otherwise it would get too easy :P ).

        1. yes, 100% of championships won – over last season :)

  6. Even if Kubica was struggling with the new format and car, he really shouldn’t be this outdone so this speaks well of Russell. I also like his attitude and comments, so a seat together with Verstappen at Mercedes seems almost a given.

  7. I can’t help but think that Kubica’s return was a mistake. It’s a touching story, but I’m not sure it did any good to himself in the end and there are many young talents that would die for that seat. Hopefully he will have more success in DTM, and the driver who replace him isn’t particularly better so Williams doing a mistake again imo.

    1. Having said that, one can argue that Williams had a TON of other drivers to choose from, I mean not so old with some milage.

      Buemi, Nasr, Ericsson just to name a few.

      Wonder if they would drive for Williams…I think they would if they could bring same cash as Kubica.

    2. @spoutnik, I would agree that, in many ways, Kubica’s return was a demonstration of the saying “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it”. In some ways, it might have been better for both him and for his fans if he hadn’t returned and had left them with the dream of what might have been, rather than the bitter disappointment of what came to pass.

      I get the feeling that there are still some who still want to think of Kubica in the mould of what he once was – they still see him as that 26 year old driver who was probably operating close to or at the peak of his potential in 2010, rather than seeing him now as a 35 year old driver who, even under ideal circumstances, would be close to the point where his performances would start dropping off.

      He doesn’t have the potential for growth that comes with youth, where a driver can rely on reflexes and can continue to absorb knowledge and experience, but doesn’t have the bank of knowledge and experience that would come with years of racing in F1 to then exploit strategy choices or fine tune a set up – he’s got the worst of both worlds, and it ended up showing this year.

      It’s left something of a rather unpleasant aftertaste – whilst many wished him well, some of Kubica’s comments eroded some of the sympathy that some had for him and made him sound a bit resentful, and some might feel that his struggles now might have only tarnished the reputation he once had.

      With it being nearly a decade since his first career ended, there may be many new fans entering the sport who look at him now and wonder why he was once rated so highly – just like Schumacher, the hands of time cannot be wound back and the after effects of his injuries mean that he’s not been able to scale those old heights, and now we’re just left with the regret and disappointment of what might once have been and the sadness of what he’s become now.

      Only Facts!, with regards to those drivers, Buemi might have been a bit tricky given his position as Red Bull’s nominated reserve driver – Red Bull do seem keen to keep hold of him in that role, as his feedback and technical knowledge seems to still be quite valuable to them.

      Ericsson, meanwhile, has the complication of his links to Sauber through their current owners – particularly since there have been rumours that, if Giovinazzi continues to struggle, he might have a chance of reclaiming a seat there. Having a shot at a slightly more competitive berth at Sauber, whilst still being able to maintain some sharpness in racing over in IndyCars, doesn’t sound like too bad a deal for him.

      As for Nasr, he doesn’t really seem to have been hunting around for an F1 seat these days, and the loss of most of his backers some time ago makes him less attractive.

    3. @spoutnik

      I’m a huge Kubica fan. Always have been.. and I’ve rated hime really highly as a driver. Its been painful to watch him this season. Driving the slowest car on the grid and getting absolutely destroyed by a rookie isn’t what he’d hoped for.

      However, I have much more respect for him to make that incredible comeback after nearly a decade out of the sport. It was unrealistic to expect him to get back to 2010 form when the cars, competitors and physical demands of the sport have changed so much.

      I’m glad he’s switching to another series, he’ll definitely enjoy more success there. A driver of his calibre deserves to be fighting at the front, and hopefully he’ll get that opportunity.

  8. It’s a shame that even though Kubica annihilated Russel on points he doesn’t get a seat next year.

    Jokes aside, I love the guy, I wanted to see him return and succeed, but never quite understood the hype around him in the first stint of his career. A postprime Heidfeld was really close to him in the BMW years.

    This is not to say he was bad, I just felt he was overestimated whilst Heidfeld massively undervalued.

    1. David, it’s not just that Heidfeld was “really close to him” – when you run a comparison of their form over the three seasons they raced together, Heidfeld beat Kubica twice in the WDC, scored more points and finished ahead of Kubica more frequently than Kubica finished ahead of Heidfeld. There’s a case that he wasn’t just close, but that Heidfeld might have actually been the better driver of the two.

      1. A very good assessment, missing only that on more than one occasion(3 iirc), kubica crashed into heidfeld when heidfeld was ahead. Unfortunately we could not get a pure determination between the two because of the silly race fuel qualifications that were in place at the time. But if I had to choose between the two, all things being equal, Heidfeld was the better driver.

      2. @anon

        Thanks for the reminder, I obviously didn’t remember correctly and didn’t look it up, I just remembered them being close.

        But this just makes me even more baffled how Heidfeld couldn’t even get a seat for 2010 when BMW left F1 (eventually got a seat at Sauber in September replacing DeLaRosa) and Kubica was in talks with Ferrari and everyone till today talks about him as a great talent who could have been a WDC?

        Again I really like him and wish him the best just didn’t quite understand the hype around him during the first stint of his career

        1. David, Heidfeld does seem to have been quite heavily underrated – perhaps part of it seems to be the fact that Heidfeld was consistent and quick, but perhaps lacked the glitz that some other drivers had. He was more of a background figure in the popular press, and his slightly conservative persona meant he was not able to generate the sort of headlines that others did.

          He also didn’t have the sort of flamboyance to his driving style that gets the press and even team bosses talking – sometimes, it seems that flamboyance is what even those in the industry believe is the hallmark of fast driving, even when it’s not necessarily the case.

          One advantage that Kubica did also have over Heidfeld in 2009 was time – Kubica is 7 years younger than Heidfeld. If you were looking at Heidfeld and Kubica in 2009, Heidfeld, at 32, was perhaps perceived as operating at his peak back then – he might be able to maintain that for a few more years, but in a few years time his performances might be reaching the point where they would go into decline.

          In 2009, Kubica, aged 25 back then, was probably perceived as having more scope for long term growth, given he did not have as much experience as Heidfeld did and being a younger driver. That point is debatable, as most drivers don’t improve significantly beyond after their fourth year in the sport – so Kubica’s performances were probably also nearing their peak at around that time as well.
          However, whether he did have as much room for growth as some thought is perhaps not critical – the perception alone would have been enough to tip things in his favour.

          At the very least, the age differential meant that, back in 2009, a team manager looking at Kubica would have known he had quite a few years left where he could operate at close to his peak performances – maybe close to a decade. From that point of view, Kubica would have been a driver that they could then build a long term development plan for the team around, as his performances should have remained reasonably consistent for several years yet.
          With Heidfeld, you’d probably have had 2-3 years left before you might then start seeing his performances start to drop off with age – that might have counted against him a bit, at least against some of the younger drivers coming into the sport at the time.

  9. In a world where the likes of Hamilton and Raikkonen are legends then yes Kubica is too!

    1. LOL! Yeah, a one time race winner in the same league of two world champions!
      There are a lot of people who still can’t swallow Hamilton’s success. Come on, dude, deal with it.

  10. This is potentially an unpopular opinion.

    Kubica is a bit of a dinosaur to still be in the sport. In terms of his performances, you can’t be out of competitive racing for so many years, and you can’t go without years of experience managing Pirelli tyres and still expect to beat a decent teammate. George Russell, and other rookies, are coming into F1 extremely well prepared these days.

    In terms of how he carried himself, Kubica also seemed to operate in the same way that Alonso did – he tried to be the centre of the team, would be willing to demand what he wanted, and wasn’t afraid of being critical of the team in the press. None of those behaviours endear him to a modern F1 team, and him being beaten by Russell means he had no business “having his way”. You might get away with that behaviour if you’re being successful, like Alonso, but he wasn’t. 

    Kubica took the decision to not continue, but you presume there was no option of continuing anyway. He certainly didn’t put himself in a position to be re-hired by Williams given all of the criticism (valid or not). You hope that Williams have better luck next season with Latifi in the car.

    1. @tomcat173

      Kubica’s F1 obituary was written when crashed the car in preseason testing and then again 3 more times in Australia and then complained about ‘a lack of spare parts”.

      If I ran that team I would have punched kubica in his good arm and kicked him in the nuts.

      1. That’s a racist comment, you only say that because he’s white

  11. Kubica isn’t the only F1 driver to race with disabilities and he’s nowhere near as successful as Johnny Herbert, who drove whilst still recovering from his huge accident where he almost lost his feet. Johnny not only raced at the top level of F1, he also won races.

  12. Totally one-sided. Kubica scored all the teams points. Joke with some truth in it. I hope he does well in DTM.

    Or he does whatever he likes, I have respect for the guy, but this year the entire team sucked including him.

  13. funny that you forgot to mention 16:5(?) ratio kubica overtook russel on first laps. now, what does it say about his racecraft?

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