Robert Kubica, Williams, Hockenheimring, 2019

2019 F1 driver rankings #20: Robert Kubica

2019 F1 season review

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Robert Kubica can claim the credit for scoring Williams’ only point of their miserable 2019 effort.

But that aside it was a desperately disappointing comeback for a driver who, eight years after being maimed in a terrible rally crash, had a huge amount of goodwill invested in his return.

The FW42 was an unworthy car for both the drivers tasked with campaigning it. Typically it was around a second per lap off the next-slowest car and, to make matters worse, the team often had to operate with a strictly limited supply of spare parts.

That leaves us with little useful data to measure Kubica by other than comparisons with his team mate. George Russell may be very highly-rated by Mercedes, for whom he is a junior driver, but he was still a rookie, and Kubica’s average lap time deficit to him of over six-tenths of a second was by far the worst between any pair of team mates. Russell decisively saw off Kubica in qualifying, beating him 19 times, while the other two occasions were accounted for by an engine failure (Spa) and crash (Suzuka) for Kubica.

Though Kubica often managed to get ahead of Russell at the start of races, he seldom stayed there. But Germany was the shining exception. On a damp track Russell slithered off late in the race, handing the initiative to Kubica, and 12th on the road became 10th in the classification after the Alfa Romeo drivers were penalised. Kubica’s experience paid off on the only day of the season when Williams stood to benefit from it.

Robert Kubica

Beat team mate in qualifying 0/19
Beat team mate in race 2/18
Races finished 19/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate 245/1151
Qualifying margin +0.62
Points 1

The rest of the season was a forgettable affair. The only other time Kubica beat his team mate was in France, where the two touched while fighting for position, leading to Russell needing a replacement front wing. On other occasions Russell prevailed and occasionally destroyed his team mate, such as at the Red Bull Ring where he finished almost a full lap ahead.

Problems outside Kubica’s control compromised his season further. That power unit failure at Spa meant he had to revert to an old-specification engine at one of the calendar’s most power-sensitive venues.

In Russia – a weekend which was going terribly for him to begin with – the team retired his car to save parts. Japan made this seem a smart call, as Kubica crashed heavily in qualifying, but was able to take part in the race.

Mexico was a considerably better weekend for Kubica. Though he lost time to Russell in the quick corners in the middle of the lap in qualifying (the first sectors at Suzuka and Circuit of the Americas were much the same), come the race he was in a feisty mood, and elbowed his way past Russell with a brilliantly opportunistic move at turn six. Unfortunately a tyre problem dropped him back later in the race.

On his comeback to Formula 1, Kubica clearly demonstrated he is still capable of driving at the top level. He never flagged once over the 21-race season. But, whether because of the damage to his arm or his prolonged absence from the cockpit, he showed very little of the same turn of speed he had at the beginning of his F1 career.

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What’s your verdict on Robert Kubica’s 2019 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

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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 “2019 F1 driver rankings #20: Robert Kubica”

  1. I’m not surprised that Kubica is 20 in this comparison. But there is zero info about the controversy with the difference about the cars.
    Not saying that there is solid evidence about it, but still not a single word about it baffels me. Not a solid journalism

    1. You mean this solid website, should mention the rumours spread by solid POLISH media?

      To be fare, why would Williams give the few, very few updates they brought to a driver that is nearly a second slower and crashes a lot?

        1. Willy is a team in very sharp decline…on all fronts!

    2. That’s because there is no truth in them.

      Russell used Kubica’s chassis for the Spanish Grand Prix and Russell qualified eight tenths quicker than him. He was simply quicker unfortunately.

      1. @GeeMac
        Yes, but in English word “chassis” is sometimes used to describe the monocoque. If you don’t believe me, believe The Mechanic, there is a video when he explains it. So I believe they swapped that. You can check it in press releases from Williams, again, if you don’t believe me. They have numbers and they are monocoques numbers.
        Plus the team will always say “it’s the same”. And if I were team, I would do the same, no matter what. They actually failed to do that in Russia, which was quite funny.

        The problem with that “different cars” was actually different. Parts just have to be more or less in the same shape, because the airflow has to be somehow controlled. But some of them may be produced earlier in the year etc. That makes the difference. Some of them were repaired, as Robert said in Hungary, he was faster in qualy in Germany and UK, but he had damaged front wing. I can go on – in Bahrain he was -0,3 faster than George before last corner, but a part just came off his car and he lost it.
        From what I understand, Robert always complained about team not listening to him or not using his solutions, whereas George was using that solutions. If you compare laps from Hungary, for example, you can see how much faster George was entering the corners and how much more grip he had. If Robert is that much slower, Renault would say “thanks, but no” after first test, Williams would do the same. And he was around for two years and almost got Renault seat and was sure (as everybody) about 2018 Williams drive.

      2. You say there is no truth in them based on info from the williams team. A team that struggles to survive, that is steered by Claire Williams who is unable to lift williams team form the bottom and still is loosing ground to other f1 teams.
        Like I said prewiusly, i’m not saying Kubica would beat Russell, but the difference is too big. Also, if Kubica is so slow compared to Russell, why not leave Sirotkin in the second car for 2019? He was paying simmiliar money to what orlen was paying now.

      3. When Russell used Kubica’s chassis, he took his floor and front wing with him. So NO, Russell DID NOT drive “Kubica’s car.”

    3. I suppose it takes lot of effort due to lack of coverage and unless you follow Kubica’s every step and Williams own press statement you are not going to see things like:
      – unpredictable car under braking for 5 or 6 races – onboards available online and Russell had similar issue once and said he wanted to retire car
      – different cars. No it was never about the chassis but front wings, side pods etc… things you can see from race photos
      – damaged parts being repaired instead of replacing – again keen eye on the photos
      – he was told in few races he can’t use kerbs and GR was hitting them at full speed like every other car
      And many more….
      Williams is in such dire state this year we can only see fraction of what is going on behind closed doors.

  2. Was kubica racefans (f1fanatic back them) #1 ranked driver in 2010? He was on many websites.

    1. I think in 2008 he was first here.

    2. I don’t see why this is relevant. Past performance is no guarantee of future success.

      1. @geemac, exactly – what Kubica was doing nearly a decade ago is pretty irrelevant to what he is doing now: we don’t rank the teams now based on where they were back in 2010.

        Anyway, to disappoint kpcart, Kubica wasn’t ranked the best driver in 2010 – he was only 4th.

  3. Let’s just be glad he is in this list.

  4. I remember Kubica being kind of a “win-or-wall” driver back in the day. Very fast, but sometimes (often) faster than the car.

    Than he has an rally accident, looses part of his hand’s motion (almost lost his life…). Fast forward 10 years and you have a driver that lost the edge and the “wall factor”, leaving him with his race experience only.

    If he was there at the midfield, (Renault was his target) this racecraft and experience would be much useful. But at the end of the grid, just driving in circles and doing laps, he had nothing to show.

    1. If he was there at the midfield, (Renault was his target) this racecraft and experience would be much useful. But at the end of the grid, just driving in circles and doing laps, he had nothing to show.

      I don’t think that is accurate. If he was in a Renault and was an average of 0.6 a lap off his teammate that would in most cases put him in the no mans land between 17th and the two Williams. Everyone wanted Kubica’s return to be a success but unfortunately it wasn’t. The mere fact he got back after everything he went through shows just how special a talent he is.

      1. My point is that in the midfield battle, the pure one lap pace doesn’t matter much because you’re always driving around a bunch of cars. You overtake when on new tyres, you get overtaken on old ones, you block, you get blocked and you drive below the limits to save stuff.

        That’s when his experience could have helped. But driving alone at the end of the grid with a 2sec deficit to everyone made that experience unuseful.

        The only time when he was in the position to use it (that crazy wet race when the Alfas were DQ), he stayed on track enough to benefit from it.

        I’m not saying he would do better than Hulkenberg. Just saying he would do better in the midfield than just racing his teammate alone.

  5. I think the comeback of Kubica was a failure. No one doubted he could drive an F1 car, Zanardi has no legs and already did it. The great story would be if he were able to drive the car fast enough to be in F1. He wasn’t.
    Kubica first stint in f1 was great, he retired (against his will) on the peak, leaving the image of a very good driver. He left in 2019 with the image of pay-driver much slower than his team-mate and with bad sportmanship with some crazy conspiracy theories.

    1. I might be wrong but I don’t think he actually started any of those conspiracy theories.

      1. he did. even if you followed his interviews on after the summer break, you’d have known

    2. In bigger picture as he many times said in the interviews he knows what are his weaknesses and strong points. He may be dead last on pure pace but I think scoring points and fighting against other teams wasn’t the main priority. Even though he’s a race winner but in this case getting back in F1 was another story.

    3. I don’t think anyone can classify his comeback as a failure. The man nearly lost his life … and came even closer to losing his arm. There was little to no hope for him to regain enough functionality in his arm to return to motorsport… heck.. F1 was just a dream. Still, he made it back to the sport after nearly a decade out, and although he was nowhere close to the driver he was a decade ago, he wasn’t as big an embarrassment as other fully abled drivers who’ve been in the sport before.

      Having said that, performance-wise he still ranks on #20 on my list, but by no means do I rate him as a failure. He still has my respect.

  6. I was expecting to see Grosjean in this place, but unfortunatly I very much agree with Kubic last as well

    1. Elemyrr the Blind Mouse
      12th December 2019, 19:12

      You will see Gro-Gro the Great soon too :)

  7. It’s difficult to judge him fairly given how poor the Williams car was but even then he was outclassed over one lap by his team-mate and only occasionally finished ahead of him – so in a comparison of one he didn’t do too well there. That said the fact he got back into F1 at all was a fairytale and I love the human story of this guy that against enormous odds, both physical, financial and mental managed to get back in to the best drivers in the world. Kubica’s still talented, still got that ‘it’ that is needed for F1 but it’s certainly not the ‘it’ he had before. But that’s okay, it was good to see him back – if only for a passing visit.

  8. A goal is a goal – the way the game football is measured.
    An F1 point is a point is team Willy’s single point in 2019 – possibly, their last season ever? Now, that’s the fact going into the history books… (and NO, I’m not Polish -; – at all!)

    1. Do you think in football the Balon d’Or goes automatically to the topscorer?

      1. Not always, but try to get it without scoring even one ;)!!!

        1. Lev Yashin, 1963.

          1. LOL, he never scored an own goal or got an assist by a bad attempt? :P

  9. Right why didn’t Williams prepare a steering wheel for a driver with disability?

    1. @jureo, they did, in fact, modify the steering wheel for Kubica before the pre-season tests even began, based on the initial feedback that they had from Kubica based on his tests for them in 2018 and his experience from Renault – the wheel that got some attention later in the season was in fact the second custom iteration that Williams produced for him in 2019.

      Kubica hadn’t mentioned having any issues with the steering wheel before, when he tested for Williams in 2018, and it is also worth noting that Alan Permane, during the test that Kubica had for Renault in 2017, mentioned that their steering wheel barely needed any modification for Kubica to use. If it hadn’t been a major issue for Kubica in 2017 or 2018, and given Williams had already made some alterations to the steering wheel, why would they expect it to become an issue for him?

      1. Na…he got it for the last few races only!

  10. I hate to say it because I like him as a driver and remember the good old days, but it’s very very difficult to argue that he shouldn’t be 20th – (though wouldn’t have argued if Grosjean or Stroll had been there!). In years to come it may not look so bad if Russell goes on to be World champion!

  11. I think this one will be appropriately judged once we have a better way of gauging Russell’s actual F1 skills. Is he as fast as Verstappen? Maybe Leclerc or Sainz? Barely above Stroll and Magnussen? We don’t know yet.

    1. We know that Mercedes chose not to replace Bottas with him. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Bottas is definitely quicker, but it does mean that Mercedes clearly didn’t think there was a big advantage to having Russell instead of Bottas.

      1. Bottas is a number 2 at merc, Russell may be a candidate for number 1 and they already have that.

        Alternatively, Russell could be said to require more experience in F1 before being parachuted into the top team.

        Maybe both reasons

  12. He didn’t manage to out qualify his rookie teammate once throughout the year and the gap was often sizeable. No matter how you slice it, his performance was bad this year. Had he been closer in qualifying he would have won a few qualifying battles throughout the year when Russell didn’t nail it. There is no way Williams would have sabotaged his car in anyway, at the end of the day they have nothing to gain by making Russell look better as ultimately he’s a Mercedes driver.

  13. Cristiano Ferreira
    12th December 2019, 17:17

    Yeah, its sad but the last place of this list belongs to him. I wanted to see him in action for a second season in a row just to see if he can get better but i think this will never happen.

    In the last couple of FPs that Latiffi was present he was already doing better laptimes than Kubica, and that says a lot because Kubica already had 16+ races with Williams by that point.

    1. Yes, it’s a shame we won’t see him another season because it’s not unreasonable the gap was due to his years of absence from the sport, so we could see if he improved with a 2nd year of recent exp, while he said the arm doesn’t give him laptime issues.

  14. Still, Kubica outscored Russell in the points.:)

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