Robert Kubica says that adapting mentally following his life-threatening rally crash in 2011 was the toughest part of his recovery.
Kubica was involved in a major accident at the Ronde di Andora, which left him with a partially amputated forearm. The Pole, who was racing in Formula 1 at the time, had to take a step back from the series while he recovered.
In 2017, Kubica's chances of returning to F1 increased, as he tested with Renault on a number of occasions. After failing to find a seat at the Enstone squad, he embedded himself in the Williams team, becoming its test and development driver for the 2018 season.
This year, Kubica will make his full-time comeback, racing for Williams alongside George Russell. The return caps a remarkable recovery story, but Kubica says that adapting mentally to his new situation was much tougher than getting over the physical disadvantages.
“The period straight after the accident was probably most difficult physically," Kubica told The Guardian. "You live in a different situation, so in the end there is a kind of switch and you change your mind, you have to learn and you want to learn.
"I discovered how powerful the brain can be. The brain adapts very quickly. It is incredible how quickly we can adapt and what progress we can make in a very short time.
“The period where you have to adapt mentally, this was even more difficult. Physical things you can solve. But then many times after surgery to improve things, you discover you have not moved forwards but backwards.
"Dealing with that is a mental task. You have to be strong. I do not have an easy character, definitely, and in those days this character helped me quite a lot.”
Speaking about his first F1 outing since 2011 when he tested the 2012 Lotus car two years ago, Kubica said that the feeling of the cars came back to him quickly.
“I felt amazing in the car,” he said. “After a few laps, it felt so familiar to me. Those laps did not feel like it had been a six‑year break. It felt like I had missed a couple of months. This opened up and unlocked my mind to see that maybe I can do it.”