Lewis Hamilton has hailed Robert Kubica as one of the best drivers he has ever raced against, and believes the “remarkable” Pole deserves a seat “as high up as possible” on the Formula 1 grid next season.
Kubica returned to F1 this year with Williams after an eight-year absence following life-changing injuries sustained in a rally crash, but announced on Thursday that he would be leaving the struggling team at the end of 2019.
Although Kubica insists he is not closing the door on other drives, his decision to move on is likely to bring an end to an astonishing F1 comeback.
Hamilton, who is the same age as Kubica and competed against him in junior formulae, as well as his first four seasons of F1, praised the Williams driver after he confirmed his departure ahead of the Singapore GP.
“I’ve known Robert the longest, we started racing each other in go-karts in 1998,” said Hamilton, who made his F1 debut in 2007, the year after Kubica.
“For me, Robert is one of the most talented drivers that I’ve competed against. From the beginning I already saw the talent that he had.
“I think what’s really remarkable is the strength and the determination he’s shown to get through the incident he had. Not a lot of people can come from those kinds of circumstances and make it back into the sport and deliver against others who don’t have the same situation as him.
“It’s been great to have him back. It’s definitely not the same scenario as when he was in a competitive team back in the day but I think he’s done great this year.”
When’s the Singapore GP on Sky?
Formula 1 next heads to Singapore for its marquee night race – watch live only on Sky Sports F1.
Kubica admitted he needed to find “joy” in racing again after a “very tough” year; Williams have been backrunners all season while Kubica, although scoring the team’s only point, has been regularly out-performed by team-mate George Russell.
But Hamilton says F1 needs drivers like Kubica, a race-winner with Sauber back in 2008 – and reckons he could still compete at the front.
“We need the best talent in the sport and we obviously need them to be as high up as possible creating part of the show,” stated the five-time world champion.
“I hope he stays but I understand his position. I don’t know what’s given him the reason to make his decision but I hope there’s a position for him next year.”
Romain Grosjean also spoke glowingly about Kubica, adding: “He’s an inspiration for anyone that had a bad experience.
“The first time I spoke to Robert was in 2009, in Abu Dhabi I think. We were supposed to be team-mates in 2010 and I was very much looking forward to it.
“It didn’t happen, but the next year I followed Robert as the reserve driver when he had his accident.