BARCELONA — Robert Kubica took part in a Formula One race weekend for the first time in more than seven years on Friday, and the Pole's considered verdict provided little comfort for fans of his struggling Williams team.
The former world champions are last in the constructors' championship with a car whose handling is the stuff of nightmares.
Kubica, the team's reserve driver whose race career was halted by a near-fatal accident while competing in a minor rally in Italy in 2011, told reporters at the Spanish Grand Prix that it was even worse than he had feared.
"It's difficult to say that it was enjoyable because our car balance was very bad and it was very difficult to drive," said the 33-year-old, a race winner in Canada with BMW-Sauber in 2008.
"Coming to Barcelona, I was expecting to be in a difficult position. Actually FP1 (first practice) was even more difficult than we expected.
"This morning we were slow, but apart from being slow it was nearly impossible to keep the car on the track. That's something we need to change."
Kubica ended the session 19th out of the 20 drivers — a place ahead of teenage Canadian teammate Lance Stroll.
It was not Kubica's first time back behind the wheel of a Formula One car — he tested repeatedly last year while hoping to secure a race seat — and he said even some of the excitement was lacking.
"I am satisfied with the session and how I react to difficult conditions and difficult balance," he said. "It sounds strange that you can be happy about P19, but actually I am happy.
"I was more emotional last year when I was jumping for the first time in the car. It's already the sixth or seventh time I'm driving the F1 car, it's becoming more natural, which is good," he added.
The Pole partially severed his right arm in the 2011 accident when a steel guardrail penetrated both car and driver. The arm remains atrophied after extensive surgery, but Kubica has learned to drive around his limitations.
"I have been in the school where they give you a bird in the hand and you have to hold it so it doesn't fly away, but you cannot hold it too much that it gets scared," he said.
"And this is the way you have to hold the steering wheel."
Reporting by Alan Baldwin