As the NASCAR world is gearing up for its season opener in Daytona, the Formula One world made headlines around the racing community when Lotus Renault GP driver Robert Kubica crashed heavily during the Ronde di Andora rally in which he was racing. His right elbow, leg, hand and shoulder were severely injured when his car crashed into a guardrail, which penetrated the car’s cockpit. Doctors say that a full recovery may take up to a year.
Some will argue, such as journalist Mark Hughes, that Kubica is the best driver in F1, despite his career numbers. This may be due to the lack of performance from his team. Nevertheless, the Lotus Renault has lost its number one driver in Kubica. Right now, the team is left scrambling to find a full-time driver for the 2011 season. Nick Heidfeld is the leading contender along with Bruno Senna. And it’s possible that former F1 champion turned WRC driver Kimi Raikkonen will make his F1 return.
This raises an important question: is it worth it for drivers under contract in an important racing series, such as Formula One, NASCAR, IRL etc. to risk their jobs by doing some “off season driving”? Speedtv.com’s recently published article, Kubica Crash Raises Danger Dilemma, talks about the issue of F1 teams letting their drivers compete in things like rallying in the off season. Former three-time champion Jackie Stewart, along with Martin Brundle and Patrick Carpentier agreed that Renault should not have let its prized driver Rally so close to the beginning of the season, let alone between tests sessions.
This is nothing new. Robby Gordon, NASCAR driver and owner, participates in the Dakar Rally, one of the years most grueling and dangerous races, annually. Just this year Tony Stewart spent time in Australia racing and got into trouble when both he and the owner of the dirt track where he was racing got into a heated argument, which ended up with both men exchanging punches and police having to detain the NASCAR icon.
The bottom line is this: these people are racers. They will race when they get a chance to, and may even go skiing. Clearly these are not the safest things to do, considering a simple frisbee accident can leave Carl Edwards, arguably the NASCAR driver who is in the best shape, with a broken foot. Personally, I don’t believe that a driver should be restricted in his or her activities during the offseason. These men and women are racers, plain and simple. Yes, it’s unfortunate that 26-year-old Kubica cannot drive for the 2011 season and contend for a title, but I think it’s rather strange to put these drivers in a glass box for their career to preserve them for race day when, during the regular season, they go out and put their safety on the line by doing the simple thing they are made to do: race.
With this topic aside, I send my best wishes out to Robert Kubica for quick and steady healing. I hope that we can see you race again, whether it’s in a Rally or the Monaco GP.