Robert Kubica can barely use the right arm he cradles in his left. But a fortnight today in Melbourne, he will start the Australian Grand Prix and complete one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history of sport.
It is eight years since the Pole was robbed of the best seasons of his career by the accident that might have cost him his life. On February 6, 2011, during the first stage of the Ronde di Andora rally, his Skoda Fabia left the road at high speed near San Sebastiano church in Testico, northern Italy.
The crash barrier pierced the cockpit and left him with a partially severed right forearm and numerous fractures to the right elbow, shoulder and leg, as well as blood loss.
Robert Kubica set to complete one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history of sport
Two teams of doctors performed emergency surgery to save him. In all, he has been operated on more than 20 times. His co-driver was unscathed.
Kubica, who was taking part in the rally for fun, was rated by Lewis Hamilton the best of his contemporaries — Kubica, now 34, is the older by a month. By the time of the accident, Hamilton had won just one of his five world titles, Sebastian Vettel one of his four.
How much might Kubica have achieved by now, not least if Ferrari had followed through on the pre-agreement he signed to compete for them in 2012?
The paddles on Kubica’s steering wheel (above) have been switched from right to left
Kubica won one race and reached the podium 12 times but more tellingly revealed his ability at BMW Sauber and then Renault with exceptional qualifying laps on tracks that place a premium on a driver’s skill.
Lying on his hospital bed in 2011, he could not remotely flex his fingers, yet we find him in Barcelona waiting his turn to test the Williams car he will be racing 70 per cent left-handed.
He used to shave with his right hand. Not now. He used to write with his right hand. No longer.
Williams promoted him to a race seat alongside British rookie George Russell this season
‘One positive thing about all this is that I learned how powerful the brain is,’ he says. ‘Often limitations can stem from the mind rather than your physical aspect. You cannot overcome anything if your body sets your limitations. You have to open up your mind and adapt.
‘For living and for driving it would be easier if I had not had the accident.