Robert Kubica has confessed, for the first time, that he may never return to Formula One.
The popular Pole was injured in a rally crash leading up to the 2011 Formula One season from which he was lucky not to lose his right arm.
At the time common thought was he would return to the Lotus cockpit by mid-season, but that came and went without so much as a word from the Kubica camp.
In late 2011 there was word he’d been testing a rally car near Genoa in Italy, however it was not until September 2012 that he finally made his competitive motorsport return in a low-level rally in Italy. Naturally, he won.
It rekindled hope that the 28-year-old could return to Formula One, hopes that have since been unequivocally quashed. His injured arm has simply not recovered, and while he can drive a saloon (or rally) car the confines of a single seater are simply too restrictive.
Kubica’s Formula One career, it would seem, is over. And it had only just begun.
Of course Kubica is not the first talent the sport has lost before reaching their full potential. During the 1960s drivers were regularly killed.
The sport was a different monster back then, more dangerous and brutal – every driver had a funeral suit in the wardrobe.
Kubica is the first in the modern age to have his promising career cut short, leaving us with just a glimpse of his immense talent.
The last to befall a similar fate was Alessandro Nannini, who showed promise for Benetton before a helicopter accident inflicted similar injuries to Kubica’s.
Nannini, the record books will show, won the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix – the one in which Ayrton Senna crossed the line first to keep his championship hopes alive after an altercation with Prost before being controversially disqualified. It was the talented Italian’s sole grand prix win.
One can exclude Senna from this discussion because he had won three world championships by the time of his death; his ability is widely celebrated.
Ironically, it was Senna’s talent which masked perhaps the most naturally gifted driver of his generation.
At Monaco in 1984 Senna was closing on race leader Prost hand over fist. He was driving the unfancied Toleman; a heavy, under-powered lump of a Formula One car. Behind him and closing in was Stefan Bellof.
Bellof was killed in a sports car accident at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in 1985 during a time when drivers often moonlighted in endurance racing.
The immensely talented German holds the lap record around the Nordschlieffe, setting it at the wheel of a Porsche 956 in 1983.
His career was fleeting but showed him to be an incredible talent; one taken before he could show his true potential.
He had the hallmarks of a world champion in the making, someone who could give Senna a run for his money as the 1980s drew to a close, but that was never to be.
Kubica has admitted he may never return to Formula One. Like so many talented drivers before him we have been robbed of a potential great, a driver with genuine superstar qualities, and a nice guy to boot.
The loss of Kubica from Formula One, like that of Bellof and so many others before him, leaves us all the poorer.
The only consolation is he’s not gone entirely, and for that at least we should be very, very thankful.