Why 2011 was about Kubica too
The 2011 season will reach its conclusion this weekend at the Brazilian GP. Obviously, the year would be best remembered for Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing's amazing run of wins.
Vettel has been a revelation this year. Going by his performance, it is clear that he has managed to take that important step towards greatness. He managed to erase quite a few records and that too in the presence of the greatest record holder of all time, Michael Schumacher. And while the high-flying Vettel has been the toast of the season, 2011 will also be remembered for the absence of a driver, Robert Kubica. The Polish driver didn't race this year at all, because of a horrific accident just before the start of the season.
The rally accident that Kubica was involved in turned out to be particularly cruel from the sporting point of view as well. The 27-year-old is one of the most talented drivers the sport has ever seen. Last year, he showed excelled beyond expectations in a Lotus Renault car that was not exactly upto the mark when compared to the big three: Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren. Yet, he managed some impressive results including three podium finishes (a second-place finish at the Australian GP). He finished eighth in the drivers' standings just a few points behind Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg. A few points would have seen him finish in the top six. With a better car, he would have been a strong contender for the championship.
He was tipped to do better this year with the team introducing a radical exhaust design. The change seemed to have worked in the first half of the season with both Lotus Renault drivers Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld, who was replaced by Bruno Senna in the middle of the season, scoring podium finishes. It won't be an exaggeration to say that Kubica in that car at that point of time would have been more than handful for the likes of Vettel and Jenson Button. Tragically, just before the start of the first race, Kubica met with an accident that put him out of Formula One for this year and maybe, longer.
Kubica has been one of the unluckiest drivers in recent times. Just when it seemed he would start challenging for the championship with the BMW Sauber team, the German automobile giant pulled out of F1 after 2009. The year before, in 2008, Kubica was leading the championship in the middle of the season after scoring his first win at Canada. However, the team decided to focus its attention on the next season which meant not enough attention was accorded on the development of the car for the remainder of the season. Kubica finished joint third with Kimi Raikkonen behind Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa.
However, there is one positive aspect to the Kubica story. Though there is uncertainty regarding his return, the Lotus Renault boss has more than once stated that the team's doors remain open for the Polish driver whenever he is fit for driving. Even Ferrari are known to have shown interest in Kubica. In fact, the drivers' line-ups for couple of teams are likely to get settled only after the Kubica situation becomes clear. Let's hope luck turns in his favour here on.
More about Dhananjay Khadilkar
Formula 1 writer
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