ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Robert Kubica completed 100 laps of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit on Tuesday and said he was in better shape than ever as the Pole pushes for a remarkable Formula One comeback with Williams next year.
The 32-year-old Polish driver, who partially severed his right arm in a rally crash before the start of the 2011 season, is the favorite to replace retired Brazilian Felipe Massa at the former champions.
Kubica covered more than 500km in the morning session, a day after the season-ending race at the same circuit, before handing over to 19-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll for the rest of the day.
“Probably, I’m in physically my best shape, by far a better shape than I was when I was racing in 2010,” he told reporters, while recognizing he had some limitations with his arm. “So motivation is there and the body is reacting in a good way.
“Of course I’m starting nearly from scratch because Formula One has changed so much in the last seven years that it’s like nearly starting from zero.”
Kubica’s last F1 race was with Renault in 2010 and his career appeared over when he crashed during a rally in northern Italy that he had entered for fun.
A steel guardrail penetrated both car and driver, leaving the Pole fighting for his life and facing extensive surgery.
His arm remains atrophied, leading to fears about his ability to cope with racing situations and tight, twisty circuits, but he said that was not the major obstacle some might suspect.
“There is someone saying I’m driving one-handed. I’m not driving one-handed,” he said on Tuesday. “I think it’s impossible to drive a Formula One car with one hand.”
Kubica, who tested with Williams in October and Renault before then, said he felt more at home every time he got into a Formula One car.
“What the future will bring I don’t know, but definitively if you look at the overall picture, where I was 12 months ago and where I am now, it has been a good 12 months,” said the Pole.
Kubica was ninth fastest of the 12 drivers on track but the main focus was more on a pre-set program than speed.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was top of the timesheets with Australian Daniel Ricciardo second fastest for Red Bull and four-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, completing 136 laps, third in his Mercedes.
Raikkonen’s best time of one minute 37.7687 seconds was considerably quicker than Kubica’s 1:41.296.
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond