Nick Heidfeld has emerged as the strongest candidate to replace the injured Robert Kubica at Renault, with the team announcing that the German veteran will drive for them at this weekend’s pre-season test at Jerez.
Despite having a tally of five reserve drivers – only two of whom (Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean) have lengthy F1 experience – the team has made little secret of the need for an experienced driver to lead the team if Kubica’s injured are, as expected, going to keep sidelined for a long time.
It is reported that Heidfeld – a veteran of over 170 Grands Prix without a race win – has held discussions with Renault F1 management over the last two days, with an agreement being reach to run him in tandem with Senna for the final two days of the four-day test session, while Vitaly Petrov will be given mileage in the R31 on the first two days of the test.
But the team has added that it won’t necessarily announce the identity of Kubica’s replacement until after this test, leaving the door open for other contenders to stake their claim for Kubica’s seat.
“There are drivers who have had good races, for example Nick Heidfeld,” said team owner Gerard Lopez, when making the announcement.
“We all know that Nick is rather good, but we don’t know what level he is in now, we don’t know how he does with our car. Same goes for Vitantonio Liuzzi, same goes – I don’t know – for Bruno Senna, who last year was in a team with a car that could do nothing.”
For Heidfeld, this represents a golden opportunity to return to the sport once again, having had a five-race stand-in role at Sauber when the team fired Pedro de la Rosa three-quarters of the way through the 2010 season. The quiet German racked up the same number of points as de la Rosa – six – but didn’t impress enough to earn a full-time berth with any team on the grid for the 2011 season. Until now, it seems…
“We must wait for the Jerez tests now, and thankfully the Barcelona ones too, and see how the car is going, and how the driver – who will start the season and maybe ending it too – is doing. We don’t know,” Lopez added.
[Original image via Mercedes-Benz-Blog]
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