INDIANAPOLIS -- Formula One driver Robert Kubica came to
Indianapolis Motor Speedway proclaiming he was alert, clear-minded
and ready to race Sunday in the U.S. Grand Prix.
The doctors disagreed.
FIA, the international governing body of racing, ruled Kubica
could not yet climb back into the cockpit four days after
sustaining a concussion and spraining an ankle in a frightening
crash at Montreal. He will be replaced by Germany's Sebastian
Vettel, a test driver for BMW Sauber.
"I felt absolutely ready to race," Kubica said in a statement
issued by the team after the doctors' decision. "I respect the
decision. It was made because there is too much risk to let me race
in this Grand Prix in case I have an impact so soon after Montreal.
I will go home now."
Vettel, a 19-year-old rookie, is expected to make his first F1
It was another disappointment for Kubica, who spent a midday
news conference insisting he was ready to drive.
"I have bit of pain in ankle first day, but now it's 100
percent OK," he said as dozens of cameras clicked. "So no
headache, nothing like that. We have to wait for the doctors of FIA
and Indy here to give me OK. But I feel like nothing happened."
I felt absolutely ready to race. I respect the decision. It was made because there is too much risk to let me race in this Grand Prix in case I have an impact so soon after Montreal. I will go home now.
Those who witnessed the crash know better.
Kubica's car slammed into the inside concrete wall near the
halfway point of last Sunday's race in Montreal, then went
somersaulting across the track scattering debris and hit the
outside wall, too.
He was carefully removed from the remains of his car by safety
workers. As he was pulled out, Kubica said he felt his shoulder
burning, which he attributed to hot oil on the ground. Amazingly,
he had no broken bones and showed up at Indy with a medical report
from a doctor in Montreal saying he could drive. FIA saw it
"Well, I can't remember a lot, of course," the 22-year-old
Polish driver said. "What I remember is what you see."
His appearance at Indianapolis drew nearly as much attention
Thursday as last week's race winner, Britain's Lewis Hamilton,
another 22-year-old rookie and the first black driver to race on
the F1 circuit. Hamilton's victory made him an overnight sensation
and sent him to New York and Washington for personal appearances
earlier this week.
But it was Kubica's crash, and the question about his
availability this week that created the biggest stir.
Colleagues expressed relief that Kubica escaped more serious
Germany's Nick Heidfeld, Kubica's teammate, said his
second-place finish in Montreal felt better once he knew Kubica
would be OK, and veteran Italian driver Jarno Trulli was asked to
give an explanation of instructions drivers are given by F1
officials following a "big hit."
"It's important in such a big accident to not move too much the
neck or spine because that's one part that can be really badly
injured," Trulli said. "I think straight away you realize if
you're OK or not by yourself."
Kubica tried to diffuse any concerns about his health.
At times, he joked about the crash that was replayed dozens of
times on highlight shows over the weekend.
"I have seen it live when I was there," he said during one
"Looking at the pictures, I think radio was not any more
there," he said when asked if he tried to tell his team he was OK.
"I mean, I don't know what has been left."
At other times, Kubica struck a more serious tone.
He said Trulli's front wing tapped the back of his car, causing
Kubica to lose control and sending his BMW Sauber car airborne.
But even as Kubica expressed his hope of driving on Indy's
2.6-mile, 13-turn road course Sunday, there were still questions
about whether he should drive.
American football players who sustain concussions are usually
held out of practice and games for at least one week until they can
pass a psychological test.
Doctors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, apparently, felt the
same way about Kubica.
It's the second time this week BMW Sauber has scrambled for a
A team spokesman said Kubica's engineer, Mehmi Ahmadi, will not
be at the race this week because the Iranian native was not granted
an American visa. Ahmadi will be replaced by Ossi Oikarinen, the
chief engineer for the test team.
Ironically, that means Vettel will be working with his usual
engineer in his F1 debut.
"Of course, I am looking forward to my first F1 race, but I
wish it had come under different circumstances," Vettel said.
"It's never nice if a teammate can't drive because he had an