ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Polish driver Robert Kubica, whose Formula One career seemed over when he partially severed his right forearm in 2011, will make an astonishing race return with the Williams team next season after eight years out.
The 33-year-old, winner of the Canadian Grand Prix with BMW Sauber in 2008, will partner British rookie George Russell at a once-dominant team that has fallen on hard times and is last in the standings.
“It is a story which probably nobody has believed and the only one who probably never gave up was myself,” Kubica told reporters after being confirmed by deputy principal Claire Williams at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Thursday.
“We all knew it might be something not achievable.”
Kubica said his comeback showed nothing was impossible, ranked as one of the greatest achievements of his life and he was ready to go racing.
His last Formula One race was in 2010 with Renault.
Kubica was Williams’ reserve and development driver this year after missing out on the race seat to Russian rookie Sergei Sirotkin, who has scored just one point from his 20 races to date and now faces an uncertain future.
“I was ready in January but this year gave me more time to learn,” said Kubica. “In 2019 we are all starting from zero so I am not afraid that I have been away for eight years. I am looking forward. I know what it takes and what I have to do.”
Kubica thanked those who had helped him through the dark times after his life-changing crash when a steel guardrail penetrated his car and arm in a minor rally in Italy.
He has undergone extensive surgery and his arm remains noticeably thin and twisted.
The Pole said last year that, while there were some limitations with the movement of his arm, he felt in better shape physically than before.
“If I think I will not be able to drive competitively enough, I would not be here,” he said.
“It is normal that people see my limitations and are asking how is it possible I can do it. I know it’s hard to believe but I think Williams has seen this year and I have seen in the last 16 or 18 months... that I can do it.
“My limitations are not limiting myself as most people are thinking.”
Williams admired Kubica’s strength and tenacity, and said his fighting spirit would be much needed as the team fought their way back from the depths.
“He pushes me, he talks to me at two in the morning in airport lounges about what’s gone wrong and what we need to be doing. And that’s great to see,” she said.
“One of the things that impressed me was that he didn’t get the race seat (last year) but still took on the role of reserve driver. I think that says a lot about his personality.
“He knows everybody in the team and gets on well with everybody...I think now he’s absolutely ready.”
The Pole’s confirmation means Canadian Lance Stroll will be moving to Force India, whose current incumbent Esteban Ocon is resigned to a season on the sidelines as a Mercedes reserve.
Although Force India have yet to make an announcement, they are owned by a consortium led by Stroll’s billionaire father Lawrence.
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London; editing by John O'Brien and Jason Neely