Robert Kubica, BMW, DTM, 2019

Kubica closing on Alfa Romeo deal for 2020

2020 F1 season

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Robert Kubica is in advanced talks to join Alfa Romeo as a development driver for the 2020 F1 season.

The 35-year-old has been in negotiations with Haas and Racing Point about similar roles after announcing his departure from Williams. RaceFans understands Alfa Romeo is now the front runner to secure Kubica’s highly-rated services as a development driver.

The connection has come about through Kubica’s manager Alessandro Alunni Bravi, who is a director at Islero Investments, the holding company for Sauber which runs the Alfa Romeo-branded squad. Kubica previously drove for the team between 2006 and 2009, when it competed as BMW Sauber.

Orlen, the Polish petrochemical company with close ties to Kubica, is also likely to play a role in the deal.

Alfa Romeo’s sponsorship deal with Shell is set to end this year. While Shell is believed to favour continuing, the forthcoming merger between Alfa Romeo owner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Groupe PSA has cast doubt over that.

This would create an opportunity for Orlen to replace Shell on the car and continue its association with Kubica in Formula 1. This could take place under the Star brand it is introducing to the European market. However Alfa Romeo’s power unit supply deal with Ferrari means it will continue to use Shell products in its F1 cars.

Kubica’s role at the team would involve helping to develop their new simulator, a task he was earmarked for by Haas in his negotiations with the team. He has extensive experience in this role, having previously used Mercedes’ F1 simulator before returning to the sport with Renault and Williams.

Kubica is also seeking a race drive in the DTM next year, having tested for BMW earlier this month.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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36 comments on “Kubica closing on Alfa Romeo deal for 2020”

  1. well-fashioned headline. I clicked out of confusion thinking Kubica was being given a drive in 2020. silly me!

    1. Dieter and Keith are 2 of the most respected F1 journalists in the industry. Occasionally, slow days require creative “click bait” to keep the ratings up.
      R.K. has the perfect mind and credentials for that job, but I think he’d be happier in WEC.

  2. Thing is, if his services are so ‘highly rated’, why did Haas and force India turn him down?

    He’s a lovely chap, Robert, but Alfa really do need the best they can get if they want to finish up higher in the tables 2020. But he’s a good friend of Kimi’s, so maybe that swung it.

    1. How do you know that they turn him down? The talks are three-way (Kubica, Orlen and f1 teams) and they keep on searching for the best option to merge Kubica DTM and F1 programs AND best possible sponsorship option for orlen. It’s not that simple.

      1. Just not aggressive enough on track. Perfect mind and feel for set-up … better suited to WEC.

        1. @paulheppler, he was originally planning to contest the 2017 WEC in the LMP1 category with the ByKolles team, having tested for them in late 2016.

          However, Kubica did admit after that test that he found it physically difficult to drive the car (not to mention that it was a big surprise to him how difficult it was to cope with the handling balance of that car too) and that, if he was going to the WEC, the team would need to adapt the car to his requirements.

          It meant he was not sure that he could compete competitively in the WEC, and in the end he backed out of the deal with the ByKolles team. http://www.dailysportscar.com/2016/11/27/kubica-on-his-test-with-bykolles-i-was-shocked-the-car-wasnt-easy-to-drive.html

          1. He purely skip ByKolles only because they performance

    2. Alfa (Sauber) would need financial support. They have enough experience in Kimi.

  3. I’m gonna be a bit provocative here, but… Another pay driver then. All respect for Kubica’s carrier, but he really was far off the pace and does not have that much XP with modern F1 car… would be happy to see him in DTM, though.

    1. That’s why he was a development driver for mercedes. That make perfect sense.

      1. Hallowed88, whilst Kubica was given the opportunity to use Mercedes’s simulator in 2013, I thought that was only part of his attempts to see whether he could or could not drive a contemporary F1 car in the wake of his injuries.

        I don’t recall ever seeing any news confirming that he was formally appointed to a development role by Mercedes in 2013 or in subsequent years, nor do I recall seeing any articles indicating that he did any development work for Mercedes between 2013 and when he joined Williams in 2019. It might be a false memory, but I have a recollection that, in the period when Kubica had that simulator test in 2013, Mercedes’s official development driver/simulator driver was Sam Bird, whilst in later years figures like Wehrlein and Russell took over that role.

        Furthermore, back in 2013 Kubica stated that, at the time, he was having difficulty in controlling the car around slower speed circuits with tighter radius corners, such as Monaco, because of the limited range of movement of his wrist. That would have limited his usefulness as a development driver, both in terms of limiting the number of circuits he could test at in the simulator and in terms of limiting the total amount of time he could spend in the simulator.

        I am welcome to be corrected, but I’m fairly sure that Kubica wasn’t working for Mercedes on a long term basis as a development driver – the only reference I have seen to Kubica doing anything with Mercedes was back in 2013 for a limited number of simulator tests for his own personal training.

      2. Mercedes gave Kubica the chance to try an F1 simulator to see if he could function in an F1 car. That doesn’t make Kubica a “development driver”.

        1. “Kubica had been linked with a move to Ferrari before his injury, while he has carried out simulator work for Mercedes earlier this year.”
          https://www.crash.net/f1/news/198080/1/kubica-f1-return-nearly-impossible

          1. Andrew, I think that you need to be a bit careful about how accurate that line is, as that seems to be supposition on the part of the journalist.

            At the time, Kubica himself never formally confirmed that he was actually doing development work for Mercedes. Kubica talked about the use of the simulator as being for his own personal benefit, stating that he wanted to see what his limitations were and seeing how he could develop towards a possible return to the sport – but there didn’t seem to be any confirmation that he was definitely helping Mercedes develop components or doing set up work for them.

            Some of the comments that Wolff made around that time about Kubica’s use of Mercedes’s simulator does suggest that it might have been more of a personal favour by Wolff to help Kubica assess whether he might be able to return to single seater racing.

            It’s also notable that the only references to Kubica using Mercedes’s simulator rig come from that statement in 2013 – there’s no reference to him carrying out any subsequent sessions in Mercedes’s simulator after that date.

            Even at the time, Wolff noted that Kubica was mainly focussing on preparing for the European Rally Championship, not on Formula 1. It is also notable that, around that time, Kubica was exploring the possibility of driving a Mercedes in DTM, either with the main teams or one of the satellite teams, and the tests in the Mercedes simulator seem to have also been linked to that possible deal.

            That Kubica did use Mercedes’s simulator is not without question, but whether we can really say that he was a “development driver” for Mercedes is questionable.

            So far as I can tell, the sessions seem to have been more for Kubica’s personal training – we don’t know exactly how many, as Kubica would only say it was “more than one and less than ten” sessions. It does not sound like it was a formalised system – Kubica himself never seems to have actually been employed by Mercedes for that purpose – so it sounds like, if there was any work on that front, it sounds like it was on a bit of an ad-hoc basis and only took place over a six to nine month period in 2013 only.

            If he did do any development work for Mercedes, it seems to have been confined to a pretty limited period (about a six month period in mid to late 2013, which is the only period where there is any definite evidence that he was using Mercedes’s simulator). Saying he was a “development driver for Mercedes” seems to overstate his role and would imply a permanent position that there seems to be no evidence for after late 2013.

          2. Yes, Mercedes let him use their simulator to see if he could potentially drive an F1 car. It’s great that they did that.

  4. Get paid for what you are good at. Cannot fault the guy!

  5. Sorry, but as far off his team mates pace as he was, I don’t see that his “feedback” as a development driver is more insightful than a young driver that Alfa Romeo could take a chance on developing not only the car, but himself.

    1. If You saying that experienced driver is less experienced then……. simply that don’t make sense

    2. To respond to the above – Kubica is BEING pursued Racing Point, Haas, and Alfa for the development driver role. The reason is that the teams who did not have a F1 driver riding the simulator in 2019 were woefully off the pace. The reason WILLIAMS was off the pace is because they did not LISTEN to Kubica. He said himself Williams implemented maybe 10% of his comments. Now, about being off the pace of Georgie: 1. GR got all of the improvements first, 2. The team strategy ALWAYS favored Georgie-boy regardless of his position on track (just consider that Georgie was a Mercedes driver, and to the best of my knowledge Williams STILL did not pay Mercedes for their engines) including the fact RK was told to go to SLOW engine mod on lap 2 in every race, while Georgie was allowed aggressive modes until lap 32 or so in EVERY RACE, 3. Georgie was getting all of the new parts while RK was driving old parts (including his floor from BARCELONA TESTING in the last 3 or 4 races), and 4. every time he got ahead of GR on lap 1 ( which was EVERY race except 2 of them), RKs startegy essentially assured GR would pass him (pit stop/engine management) and when he could not, Williams would invent a reason to retire him. This brings back the Maldonado 2013 debacle. So, comparison of GE and RK pace are meaningless. I do hope RK gets back into F1 racing just to show the Brits that Georgie-boy Is NOT the next champion. If he was, Mercedes would have him racing instead of Bottas.

      1. With “BEING” you mean You Kubica was pursuing that role and struck out twice. No he possiblyd found a team that will take the money and let him practice for a comeback.

      2. Pete, the problem that some have is the question of whether those team are really chasing Kubica for his skills, or chasing him because of his sponsor PKN Orlen.

        As pointed out in this article, Orlen could become a primary sponsor for Sauber if their current deal with Shell comes to an end due to the PSA merger – a straight swap in a major sponsor would be useful for a team that doesn’t have the largest budget in the sport, even if the Alfa Romeo deal has helped them this year.

        In the case of Haas, we know that team is pretty keen to find a new title sponsor given the rather humiliating public battle with Rich Energy – from the reports in the Polish press, there were some suggesting that Steiner was interested in PKN Orlen first and Kubica second given that Steiner seems to have spent quite a bit more time talking to them than to Kubica (although it does seem that PKN Orlen have taken on something of a management role with Kubica, so there is that factor).

        1. Pete is a rambling mess. His hysterics have been addressed before. I’m disappointed I even got involved in responding.

          I’m a Kubica fan too.
          I’m sad the fairytale didn’t come true too.
          But I accept that it was just too tall an order. Even for him.

  6. Kubica was driver number 2 from very beginning, Russel always had new parts, even when Russel would crash, Williams would give him Kubica’s parts and Kubica would have to use old ones for the race. As well he needed different steering wheel, but Williams only made it few races before end of the season, disgraceful favourism of English boy! But Kubica still managed that only point they had, always overtaking George in race, just to be pulled in extra pit stop or even retire just to let Russel be in front. So don’t think he was so bad, I love to see him Alfa and to get a race in competitive car would be sweet, so all you keyboard racers would get how good he is and what he went thru. Btw all 3 F1 teams are still fighting to get him

  7. Kubica and PKN Orlen are tied in the same way as the old Japanese engine deals, to get the oil money a team will have to accept the old man as part of the deal. Like so much of the mystique surrounding Kubica, his skills as a development driver have never been proven, we only hear of his abilities from Kubica and his fans. Much like his numerous suggestions to his last team that Williams have never acknowledged. In fact all we do know is that he complained constantly and made accusations about his car throughout the season, none of which were accepted by Williams.

    @Pete You can’t have it both ways. Why employ a former F1 driver to test the cars, when you’ve got decent F1 drivers racing them? Haas has no money & Racing Point had lost time with the ownership change in 2018.

    1. Kubica’s skill in informing engineers of car set up goes back to his days in Sauber. Haas engineers who worked pressured the team to try to get him. Same with Racing Point where both the father and son very actively tried to get him as a development driver. Do you people read ANYTHING about F1 beyond the two British-biased blogs??????????

  8. OK, prove me wrong. If I am a “rambling mess,” it should be easy to prove me wrong. I have facts on my side, including driver-engineer communication transcripts and interviews showing that Williams’ claim that cars were “identical” was an absolute blatant lie. What do you have?

    1. Kubica drove Russel’s car. He was just as much slower than Russel as he was in his own slower car.

      All you have is made up nonsense based on what you collected on a Kubica fan blog.

      1. “Kubica drove Russel’s car.”
        No he didn’t.

      2. KUB did not drive RUS’s car. He just used the same chassis. All the other parts, engine, aero were improved first in RUS’s car. That’s a fact, not a fan blog mirage.

        1. Chris, wasn’t it pointed out that, during the Spanish GP weekend when Russell used Kubica’s chassis, he also used the floor from Kubica’s car because the one he had used until then was destroyed by the manhole cover in Baku?

  9. Kubica should call it a day, or try to compete in different race category
    Im Polish but 2019 for me is just Orlen paying Williams to let Kubica drive crappy F1 bolid and now Orlen is again paing Alfa to let him develop a car. I would rather see him not be involved in F1 then see him fight for scraps.

  10. And just to show you what RK had to put up with in Williams, here is a video of RK’s communication with his race engineer in ONE race. It’s hilarious how incompetent Paul Williams really is. I bet none of the British blogs published this… https://www.reddit.com/r/formula1/comments/bisdcp/kubica_vs_race_engineer/

    1. Pete, it is worth noting that that source also contains links to other articles showing how Russell was experiencing similar issues in those races as well – just as Kubica seems to have had issues in Baku, similarly there were also links noting that Russell was continually having to communicate back and forth with the team about problems with the braking system on his car in that race.

      It’s not to say that there weren’t issues – just that it feels like you just want to selectively quote only the incidents that involve Kubica. When you couple that with ranting about “British biased” blogs and similar comments, it ends up giving the impression to others that you are similarly guilty of the same bias that you accuse others of, just in a different direction.

    2. Yes Williams is a troubled team. Duh! The difference is that Russel was able to cope with the same situation much better than Kubica.

  11. Finally back to F1 team not F2 team like Williams :)

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