BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Robert Kubica has just one point to show for his comeback season, and even that could be taken away, but the Pole can still count on more support than most at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Tens of thousands of his compatriots are expected to make the journey to Budapest to support the country’s first and only Formula One driver at what is the closest thing to a home race for the 34-year-old.
With Kubica absent from 2010 until this year due to a near-fatal rally crash, the Polish flags are out in force at the circuit where the Williams driver made his debut with BMW Sauber in 2006.
“I knew Robert was popular but I don’t think I quite realised how popular,” Claire Williams, deputy principal of the last-placed team, told Reuters on Friday.
“Every race we’ve been to, the Polish fans seem to be following him around the world and bringing their big banners. For us at the moment, that’s just a really nice thing to happen,” she added.
“I’m really looking forward to this weekend and seeing all his fans out there. I think it will be lovely for him as well. And he deserves it.
“In a year when the dark clouds are hanging quite heavy (over the team), you’ve got to take any positives, haven’t you?”
Kubica won the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix and, hailed as a potential champion, was set for a Ferrari future before he partially severed his right forearm in the 2011 accident in Italy.
His return to a race seat this year had all the ingredients of a feel-good story until it became apparent that Williams were an age off the pace.
The Pole has been a backmarker, regularly lapped and having to look in his mirrors and move aside for the faster cars coming through.
He has also lost out to George Russell, his British rookie team mate and last year’s Formula Two champion, who has beaten him in nine races out of 11.
The 10th place at last weekend’s German Grand Prix in Hockenheim was Williams’ first point of the year but possible only because the Alfa Romeo drivers who finished ahead were hit with post-race penalties and were demoted out of the points.
Alfa Romeo have appealed and could win the points back. Kubica is a realist about the situation and what the fans can expect.
“I would like to pay them back for their support with a good performance but I think this will be quite difficult, looking at the season up to now,” he said.
“But still it’s great to see such big support, not only in Formula One, they have been around also when I was rallying, when I was doing some other racing series. Hopefully they will enjoy their weekend.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge