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Robert Kubica returns to action in crucial Williams test

ABU DHABI -- Robert Kubica has returned to duty for Williams in a crucial test which may well determine whether he will be the team's full-time driver in 2018.

Kubica, who hasn't raced in Formula One since suffering life threatening injuries in a 2011 rally crash, is favourite to take the seat left vacant by the retiring Felipe Massa. The Polish driver impressed Williams in tests of a modified 2014 car at Silverstone and the Hungaroring earlier this year, but this is the team's first chance to assess his capabilities in the modern generation of F1 car.

Robert Kubica on track in the Williams during Abu Dhabi's post-season test. Sutton Images
Speculation of a return to F1 has been rife all year, with several private tests for Renault leading to a day in the car at the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test in August. Kubica was forced to look elsewhere for a seat when Renault secured the services of Carlos Sainz for 2018.

By lunch time he had completed 50 laps of the test, aimed at assessing the Pirelli's 2018 compounds. Opposite the Williams garage was a giant Polish flag in the main grandstand, made from a collage of pictures of his fans, similar to the one which sat opposite the Renault garage in August at the Hungaroring.

In the Williams garage is 2016 F1 world champion Nico Rosberg, who has been enlisted as Kubica's manager and has been spearheading his push for a full-time drive.

Also competing in the test are three of the grid's four world champions, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. It is the first time Kubica has shared a race track with all three since the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Pole is held in high regard by the trio, with Hamilton and Alonso suggesting he is one of the sport's lost world champions.

Kubica faces some competition for the seat. Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein and Red Bull outcast Daniil Kvyat are believed to be under consideration, as well as reserve driver Paul di Resta. Russian Sergey Sitorkin will test for Williams this week in Abu Dhabi, raising speculation he is also being assessed for some sort of role with the team in 2018.

Author: Nate Saunders, ESPN UK

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