The test, at Hungary’s Hungaroring circuit, was Kubica’s first in a latest-spec F1 machine as he assesses his chances of a return to the sport since suffering terrible injuries in a rally crash in 2011.
Back then he was a Renault F1 driver and considered one of the best talents on the grid.
Kubica had twice tried out a 2012-spec Renault F1 car earlier this year but this was an opportunity to see if he could cope with the extra physical demands of the more brutal 2017-spec machines.
Ultimately he completed 142 laps – a distance greater than two grands prix added together – and ended the day fourth fastest overall, within one and a half seconds of World Championship leader Sebastien Vettel’s Ferrari who topped the timesheets.
Kubica commented: “It was a fantastic feeling for me to be here today in the R.S.17 and also it was amazing to see so many fans come to see me out on track, so thank you to all of them.
“It has been an incredible journey to this point, where I have answered many questions to myself. I learnt a lot about the latest generation car, as there are a reasonable amount of differences between it and the Formula 1 cars I have driven in the past. The car is certainly wider than before.
“I was able to work through the team’s programme methodically and I think we made good progress. Certainly my understanding of the R.S.17 and the 2017 tyres came on a lot. After today, it’s too early to say what the next step might be. For now, I owe a big thanks to everyone at Renault Sport Formula One Team for making this test happen.”
Kubica’s performance added to the buzz surrounding the team of late… Nico Hülkenberg achieved the squad’s best result to date since returning to F1 in 2016 with a terrific sixth place finish in July’s British GP, a new front wing and floor design having improved the R.S.17’s performance.
In Hungary he qualified seventh fastest outright but had to start 12th because of a grid penalty (for a gearbox change mid-event). He brilliantly recovered to battle for sixth position only to retire late on after being run off the track by a rival. Team-mate Jolyon Palmer also looked his strongest yet in 2017 in Hungary with a finish just outside the top ten, in 12.
Next up are two of F1’s most famous races, at Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium (27 Aug) and then Monza in Italy (3 Sept). Both circuits are legendary, steeped in history and high-speed in nature. Recent technical advancements as well as data gathered during Kubica’s Hungary test could help the team continue its push for a top five finish in F1’s constructors’ standings…
Speaking after the Hungary test, Sporting Director Alan Permane said: “It’s been a full and productive day with over two grands prix worth of laps completed. We worked through a comprehensive programme and Robert was able to give us great feedback.
“The R.S.17 ran faultlessly, even with the extreme temperatures we faced out on track. We have accumulated a lot of data over the past two days to add to the lessons learnt in the Grand Prix here, so we have scope to further optimise the car looking to the next races after the summer shutdown.”