The last time I interviewed Robert Kubica, on January 31 2011, everything was different. It was the day before the first test of the new Renault R31 at Valencia and Kubica talked about his hopes that the team could build on a promising, but winless, 2010 campaign and finally give him the chance to emerge as the title contender he undoubtedly had the ability to be.
Six days later, Kubica suffered a horrific accident on the Ronde di Andora Rally. It was a crash that could have killed him, but while the 29-year-old is still very much with us, and competing at a high level in the World Rally Championship, what happened has savagely changed the course of his life.
In AUTOSPORT's January 16 issue of this year, we rated Kubica as the third-best driver never to have won the world championship. There was plenty of reader feedback questioning so lofty a position, but having had the privilege of seeing Kubica in action in F1, there's no doubt his absence from grand prix racing for the past three-and-a-half seasons has robbed us of the chance of seeing some spectacular performances.