Kubica 'to be signed up as Williams reserve driver'

Robert Kubica (POL), Williams F1 Team

Reports in French media on Friday say that Robert Kubica will be Williams F1's reserve driver for 2018.

Kubica had previously been in the running for a full-time race seat with the team. He carried out a number of tests last year to see if his fitness was up to the demands of Grand Prix racing.

The 32-year-old Pole took part in 76 Grand Prix races between 2006 and 2010 with Sauber and Renault. However, a pre-season crash while competing in the Ronde di Andora rally in 2011 left him with life-changing injuries.

He recovered sufficiently to resume his racing career in the World Rally Championship,. However, a full Formula 1 return was thought highly unlikely.

Hopes were raised over the summer that he might get his chance after all. But further tests with Williams in October seemed to pour cold water over the prospect.

Although Williams didn't release details of the Pole's lap times, it's understood that Sergey Sirotkin performed better. The Russian driver also comes with considerable sponsorship backing.

French newspaper L'Equipe says that Sirotkin will be confirmed this week as the team's replacement for Felipe Massa. The 22-year-old Muscovite will be partnered with Canadian driver Lance Stroll.

"The decision will be very quickly formalised," the sports daily reported on Friday. But it added that there might also be good news for Kubica.

"All is not lost for the winner of the 2008 Canadian GP," it wrote. "[He] will be offered a test driver role, probably with a few Friday morning test sessions at a number of Grands Prix."

Despite the snub, Kubica is understood to be keen to play a role in William's 2018 campaign.

A support role would see Kubica input into optimising car performance and development. The prospect of more time behind the wheel could also help set him up for a future F1 drive.

Earlier this week, Kubica won the backing of Pirelli's director of motorsport. Mario Isola said that the driver simply needed more time to get used to the latest generation F1 cars.

"It's obvious that if you take a driver who has not driven a single-seater for six or seven years, he discovers today a completely different F1," he told RACER. "All is different from seven years ago."

"It is impossible to expect a driver in this situation to be faster than a driver who has participated in many private trials driving the current generation of Formula 1 cars and has a very good knowledge of Pirelli tires."

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