Formula 1 comebacks are rare, with the sport a young man’s game, seats limited, and racing technology rapidly moving on. Generally, it’s a chance reserved for World Champions.
The most high profile recent example being Michael Schumacher who returned to the sport with Mercedes in 2010.
But the team was four years from its zenith in the turbo-hybrid era, with the 7-time World Champion netting just one podium in three seasons, at the 2012 European GP.
SOUNDBITE (English) MICHAEL SCHUMACHER,
7-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
"We are always depending so much on the [quality of the] car that is the bigger thing that you think about.”
Now, former Grand Prix winner Robert Kubica, is set for his own incredible comeback with Williams next season, more than seven years after his last race with Renault at Abu Dhabi in 2010.
Just making the grid will be a dream come true for the Polish star – whose meteoric rise in F1 was cut short after his off-season accident at the 2011 Ronde di Andora rally that left him critically injured, and partially severed his right forearm.
17 operations later, and Kubica returned to racing via rallying in 2012, the Pole a motorsport fanatic hell-bent on returning to past glories.
SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT KUBICA,
F1 DRIVER 2006-2010:
"We are here in a different car. Last time I have been here the event was an F1 Grand Prix, this time it's the Monza rally show.”
He joined the European Rally Championship in 2013, winning the World Rally Championship 2 series that same year – before making the step up to the main game. His best WRC overall result, 12th in 2015.
His main target, though, was always F1 - and this year, Kubica began to seriously explore the limits of his affected right arm, with tests in a World Endurance Championship LMP1 and then Formula E car.
… while in early June, Kubica returned to an F1 cockpit for the first time in 6-years for a private test with Renault in the 2012 Lotus E20.
The 2008 Canadian GP winner had a further two tests with Renault, using only his left hand for all gear changes, before heading to rival Williams for tests in its 2014 car, his time in the 2017 version at this week’s Abu Dhabi post-season Pirelli tyre test the final evaluation.
It’s expected Kubica will get the seat, given his talent, the fact that Nico Rosberg is managing his comeback and the hype he’ll bring to the season and team, but there are still contractual hurdles to clear first.
Should he get the green light, it’ll be game on from Melbourne with Kubica desperate to race in F1- a scenario previously thought impossible.