F1 drivers from Poland
Poland is one of the few countries where only one national driver has competed in Formula 1. And for Poland that driver didn’t enter the sport until 2006.
The driver? Robert Kubica. He’s known for both his incredible pace when he first entered Formula 1 and his horrific rally crash which could have ended his life.
Kubica’s determination to recover from his serious injuries and get back in to motorsport make him one of the most legendary drivers to have graced the Formula 1 paddock over the last few decades.
Below I’ll highlight the highs and lows of his career in a little more detail. Future Polish drivers take note, it’s a hard act to follow.
- Previous teams: BMW Sauber, Renault, Williams
- First season: 2006
- Last season: 2021
- World championships: 0
- Wins: 1
- Podiums: 12
- Pole positions: 1
- Number of GP starts: 99
- DOB: 7 December 1984
- Hometown: Krakow, Poland
Junior motorsport categories
Robert Kubica started his motorsport journey by cutting his teeth on the go kart tracks. His skill was evident from the off, winning 5 different categories of the Polish Karting Championship from 1995 to 1997.
He also won karting championships in Italy, Monaco and Germany multiple times, beating future F1 championships like Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the process.
By the end of 1999, at 15 years old, he had 11 different internationally recognised go karting titles under his belt.
In 2001 he moved up to single seaters. In 2002 came second in the Formula Renault Italy champsionship. He twice came second at the prestigious Macau Grand Prix, and his biggest achievement was winning the 2005 Formula Renault 3.5 series.
That undoubtedly helped him achieve the final leg-up he needed to bag a seat on the Formula 1 grid.
Formula One - BMW Sauber
His breakthrough moment came in 2006 when he was signed as a third driver for the BMW Sauber F1 team. Towards the end of the season Jacques Villenueve, one of the two main drivers from BMW, crashed heavily at the German Grand Prix. At the following race BMW announced Kubica was take his seat for the rest of the season.
Robert Kubica became the first ever Polish driver to start a Formula 1 Grand Prix. And it only took him two races to score his first points, finishing on the third step of the podium in the Italian GP.
In 2007 BMW announced that Kubica would be one of their main drivers for the whole season. Whilst he didn’t manage to get on the podium that year, he showed great consistency with 12 top-ten finishes putting him 6th place overall in the championship.
2008 was Robert’s best year. He took his first and only victory at the Canadian Grand Prix and finished on the podium another 6 times. At the end of the season he was 4th in the championship, despite leading the standings at one point in the year. 2009 was a much harder year with just one podium and a lowly 14th place overall in the standings.
Formula One - Renault
After a disappointing 2009 he moved to the Renault F1 team for the 2010 season, teammate to the Russian Formula 1 driver Vitaly Petrov.
This move brought a return to Kubica’s outstanding consistency, taking 8 top-five, 15 top-ten and 3 podium finishes from 19 races.
He consistently produced remarkable performances, out-driving his car’s abilities and identifying himself as one of the stand-out and most talented and popular drivers on the grid.
Kubica was again due to drive for Renault in 2011. Before the season started he entered the Andorra Rally and had a horrific accident. He hit an armco barrier which came through the car’s windscreen and partially severed his forearm whilst also breaking his elbow, shoulder and leg.
His injuries were severe enough to put him out of the whole 2011 and 2012 seasons. He eventually recovered enough to return to motorsport in a rally car at the end of 2012, winning the first rally he entered and received a heroes’ welcome in the process.
Return to F1
The whole motorsport community knew that Robert had unfinished business in Formula 1. So when Williams announced that he would be driving for them in 2019, the excitement grew.
Unfortunately Kubica joined at a time where Williams were a long way off their pace. Their car was the slowest on the grid and it was almost impossible for them to be competitive.
He managed one 10th-place finish that year, bagging him just 1 point. That was to be the only point he’d score that year, finishing 19th in the championship (ahead of his rookie teammate George Russell).
Kubica decided to leave Williams at the end of that season to focus on other forms of racing, all whilst remaining in a test and reserve driver role for the Alfa Romeo F1 team.
He later revealed that he had signed with Ferrari to drive for them in 2012. Oh what could have been had he not had the accident.
Still, Kubica left a lasting impression on the sport and one heck of a legacy for future Polish F1 drivers to follow.
Kubica wasn’t done yet. His move to endurance racing proved very fruitful.
He won the 2012 European LeMans series in the LMP2 category and followed that up with a 2023 World Endurance Championship win again in LMP2.