Robert Kubica was on the rise in his career at one of motorsport’s highest levels, Formula One, when he suffered a horrific 2011 rally crash partially severed his arm. Kubica made it back to the top eight years later with the Williams F1 team, against all predictions, but his comeback won’t last into 2020—at least, not with Williams.
Kubica confirmed in an F1 press conference Thursday that he won’t return to Williams next year, despite a comeback that saw years of rehabilitation and his ascent back up the racing ladder with an arm still unable to do some things the as it did before the crash. His teammate George Russell has out-qualified him all season despite Kubica leading the two in the points standings, one point to zero, and the team just hasn’t done well in general this year. They’re dead last in the points, meaning a change was likely to happen regardless.
The F1 website’s breakdown of the news says it “almost certainly spells the end of the Pole’s F1 career,” and that Kubica is understood to be considering moving to other racing series, such as his reported talks of heading to DTM with Audi. It opens the Williams car up to anyone willing to accept the pains that come with a current Williams ride, and 2020 free agents include Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Even if Kubica’s return to F1 was in a back-of-the-field ride, it’s sad to see it potentially end. It seemed like his F1 hopes were all but over after that awful rally crash, given how difficult it is to reach the top of open-wheel racing in the first place—let alone for a second time, years later, while recovering from such severe injuries. Not only was he fighting the injuries, but he was fighting age in terms of a top-level athlete: Kubica crashed in his mid 20s in 2011, and wasn’t able to return to F1 until age 34.
In 2017, Kubica even called his own chances of returning to a full-time F1 ride “very slight.”
“Every day, I discover my new limits, but I have always hoped that I’d at least get the chance to give it a go,” Kubica told the international journal of the FIA, Auto. “I’ve done a lot of kilometres in the simulator and I’ve driven in other categories, but I knew that only driving a Formula One car would give me those special feelings again and that proved to be true.”
But Kubica did it, and it was incredible to watch.
And, if this is his last year in F1, at least he got one more chance at it. It was a reminder that comeback stories do happen in real life, even when the odds are low and the window is short.