Robert Kubica is to become the latest recipient of the prestigious Lorenzo Bandini Trophy, awarded annually to the most exciting talents in Formula One.

The Pole already has a special bond with the Italian people, having spent his formative years racing in the national karting and FRenault championships, but his performances in Formula One - and his return from an horrific crash at last year's Canadian Grand Prix - have only served to increase his following.

The Lorenzo Bandini Trophy - which honours the former Ferrari driver killed at the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix - is handed out by the village of Brisighella, near Imola, to drivers to have made their mark in the top flight, either for excitement or underdog performances. Previous winners include world champions Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso, but no driver has been presented twice in the 16 years of the award's existence.

Kubica finished sixth in the world championship last season, and wins the Bandini award, somewhat ironically, after making less of an impact than he did in the part season he completed with BMW Sauber in 2006. However, he clearly did enough to warrant that award going his way rather than, like most others handed out for 2007, to Lewis Hamilton. He will be presented with trophy in Brisighella a week before the Monaco Grand Prix.

Confirmation of the award coincides with BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen confirming that Kubica was coming of age in Formula One, and could go on to greater things in the future.

The World Series by Renault graduate notched up his first ever F1 pole position in Bahrain just over a week ago, and finished the race in third place to take a second podium result of the season.

"The qualifying session was a dream for him and the team," Theissen told BMW Sauber's official website, "It shows that we made the right decision in signing him up.

"Robert can become one of the stars of Formula One. He can be sure now that he can win a race, as soon as his car is good enough."

Receiving the Bandini award on the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix could also be a good omen for one of Formula One's confirmed street circuit fans. Kubica comfortably lists another inner city great, Macau, as his favourite circuit, and is looking forward to the new Singapore and Valencia grands prix in August.

"I am a big fan of street circuits in general," he says, "They are more demanding as they are often bumpy and the street surface changes. If you make a mistake you can easily run into barriers. Valencia, however, will not be a complete street circuit, as there will be lots of run-off areas for safety reasons. The FIA puts a lot of effort into safety - which is a good thing."

Previous winners of the Lorenzo Bandini Award are as follows:

1992 Ivan Capelli
1993 not awarded
1995 David Coulthard
1996 Jacques Villeneuve
1997 Luca di Montezemolo
1998 Giancarlo Fisichella
1999 Alexander Wurz
2000 Jarno Trulli
2001 Jenson Button
2002 Juan Pablo Montoya
2003 Michael Schumacher
2004 Kimi R?ikk?nen
2005 Fernando Alonso
2006 Mark Webber
2007 Felipe Massa
2008 Robert Kubica

[from 1995, award presented for performances in previous season]

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