Robert Kubica has taken to the track in a Formula 1 car for the first time since a near-fatal accident abruptly ended his Grand Prix career.
The Pole previously drove for BMW Sauber, winning the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, before sustaining severe arm injuries while competing in the Ronde de Andorra rally in February 2011.
On Tuesday he completed 115 laps in the Lotus E20 at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit, the same venue where he last tested as a contracted driver for the Renault team in the days before his horrific crash.
The car, painted to resemble the current Renault, was previously raced to victory by Kimi Räikkönen at the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Renault said Kubica “complained about grip, understeer, downforce and had the biggest smile after his 115 laps”.
It is unclear whether the 32-year-old is looking to make an F1 comeback and Renault were reluctant to shed any light on the matter, tweeting during the test: “So why did we keep it quiet? It was a private test, for Robert.”
Kubica’s limited movement in his arm and hand had initially prevented a return to single-seater racing, however since his recovery he has competed in the FIA European and World Rally Championships as well as testing a GP3 Series car at Franciacorta in Italy, a Formula E car at Donington Park and an LMP2 Dallara challenger for SMP Racing at Monza.
A return to F1 may not be unrealistic for Kubica – who has one win and 11 podiums from his previous four-and-a-half seasons in the sport – as current Renault driver Jolyon Palmer is under pressure to perform. The Briton has failed to deliver in the first six races of the season and has only scored one point in two years with the team.
Image via Renault F1 Team