Kubica to continue as Alfa Romeo reserve driver as Orlen extends title sponsorship

2021 F1 season

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Robert Kubica will continue to serve as Alfa Romeo’s reserve driver during the 2022 F1 season.

The news was confirmed after Polish petrochemical firm Orlen extended its deal to remain as the team’s title sponsor.

Kubica made two race starts for the team this year as a substitute for Kimi Raikkonen, who missed the Dutch and Italian grands prix after contracting Covid-19. The one-time F1 race winner also made three appearances in practice sessions, performed the team’s first shakedown of its C41 at the start of the year and drove in its 18-inch tyre test for Pirelli.

Alfa Romeo is the only team on the grid which will have a completely new driver line-up next year. Raikkonen is heading into retirement and will be replaced by current Mercedes Valtteri Bottas.

Formula 2 driver Guanyu Zhou will also arrive in place of Antonio Giovinazzi. The experienced Kubica, who made his 99th start for the team this year, will therefore provide useful continuity.

Orlen board president Daniel Obajtek estimated the value of the company’s exposure from television broadcasts through its F1 presence at “over PLN 550 million”, or £89.5m. “Therefore, involvement in cooperation with Robert Kubica and the Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen team is a strategic investment for us.

“As a company with an international reach, we have successfully built a common platform for conducting marketing activities in many markets in which we conduct our business. This paid off, the Orlen Group recorded a net profit of PLN 2.9 billion [£520m] in the third quarter of 2021 and increased its market share in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.”

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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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16 comments on “Kubica to continue as Alfa Romeo reserve driver as Orlen extends title sponsorship”

  1. He won’t become a regular driver again anyway, so continuing this role is redundant in the long term.
    The same applies to all drivers who keep a reserve driver type role in a team for an extended period despite effectively having zero chance of racing in F1.

    1. But he is almost certain to be doing an important bit of work in the simulator, maybe even get some driving during testing and who knows, he might stand in for another race or two @jerejj.

      Since this is the only team fielding a rookie, them keeping a veteran 3rd driver is not a bad idea. And I am sure it will help Orlen with their PR as well if they can at times fly in Kubica to promote their brand (they plan on ditching the current “Benzina” brand that has been active in CZ for I think about 50 years for their own PKN Orlen this year, could use a bit of promotion for that alone.)

    2. Dude, he had two races this year and might have a couple in 2022. Who knows. Its like a substitute goal keeper in football. You still have to train hard and hope for your chance when your team needs you. Yes its not a regular drive, but its still one of the best jobs on the planet.

  2. Longbow sure like to have a deep bench of pay drivers.

  3. Much rather see Robert in that race seat and give Bottas the testing role. At least he still has fire and determination unlike the sleepy Finn.

    1. Robert did not do too bad against George looking on things now! If Orlen stepped up their sponsorship we might have gotten to see Robert make it to full time instead of Zhou.

      1. i like Robert as much as any other guy but he was nowhere near Russel’s pace, weekend in weekend out. they were world aparts and not in a good way. he was close to being lapped by Russel on several races without incidents or mechanical failures…

  4. Hopefully Robert is content with his role. I can see why many would be disappointed with his return to F1, but its still a miracle he’s here at all.

    Also the sponsorship keeps Sauber afloat which is nice too!

    1. Reading his polish interviews he is very content. He won the euro lemans title this year, nearly won lmp2 class at lemans 24hours (last lap car failure) and got to drive be 2 F1 races. I hope he gets to start his 100th F1 race sometime at some point, and I hope Alonso gets to 100 podiums next year ( he isn’t n 98 podiums). Next year it looks like Kubica will be starting in lmp2 in WEC, and from there could fom a great career in sports car as he will be with WRT who so nearly grabbed 1-2 at lemans 24hr this year and will likely move up to top tier WEC soon too.

  5. I mean Robert just has some hardore fans at an exec level…cause this level of backing for seemingly very little in return is impressive even by pay driver standards….and he doesn’t even have a proper seat. Personal relationships>>>logical financial decisions that appease balance sheets.

    1. And why is that? It is because he was a megastar race driver since day one. Beating Rosberg and Hamilton in go karts. He had a stunning first race in F1 in a wet race replacing a world champion and performing better than the past world champion instantly. He had a great early F1 career, being voted best F1 driver of 2010 in so many media and fan forums, was signed to drive for ferrari then he broke half his bones needing 20 operations. a couple years later made a racing return when most people though he never would, and in Rallying to help defeat his demons on the tracks that killed his prior career, wining the WRC2 title at first go and winning 14 stages in a back of the grid car in the top level WRC series (Kimi only won 1 stage in a better car in the same period). Kubica then made an unheard of comeback all those years later in F1 with a severely disabled right hand, first as a reserve driver then as a race driver. Why would he not have a fan base with such an interesting career? He is an F1 legend with only one win, kind-of like Jean Alesi. Top bloke too. Watch the Monaco 2010 race weekend, Senna level driving in a midfield car to qualifying 2nd, 1.4 seconds ahead of teammate and finishing 3rd. Fans and the F1 world do not forget, though new fans that didn’t see his first F1 career I understand their doubts, especially since his comeback didn’t work out.

      1. Excellent summary. A true F1 legend!

    2. Curious if you read the article or just the headline. What amount do you think Orlen is providing? The sponsorship has been beneficial for Orlen in Poland, that is what the CEO references. What Robert/Orlen bring to Sauber is just a fraction of what 95% of drivers on the grid supply, and this is just sponsored drivers I speak of. The only true pay drivers are Latifi Stroll Mazepin and possibly next year with Zhou although that seems more sponsor heavy than the latter. Just somewhat supirsed Robert has been labeled a pay driver by so many new uneducated fans when its far from truth.

  6. When you spell it out like that, he’s a very impressive driver.

    1. One of the F1’s big What Ifs

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