With Renault facing the enormously difficult prospect of finding a replacement driver for the injured Robert Kubica, the team has given some indication that it will look at an experienced F1 pilot to fill the Pole’s shoes during his absence.
Renault F1 team owner Gerard Lopez paid the injured driver a visit at his hospital in Italy, and his comments to reporters have given some indication of who the team has in mind as a potential replacement.
“Robert is a great loss for us at the moment that is forcing us to revise our plans. This is clearly a difficult time,” he told reporters.
“We don’t know yet if and when Robert will return. If it will be a long recovery and he will not be back this season, we need to rely on an experienced driver.
With the team having produced a rather revolutionary and rapid car in the form of the R31 – which Kubica took to the top of the timesheets on the final day of the Valencia pre-season test – the outfit needs a driver capable of matching its sidelined driver.
“The fate of our season will depend on this new driver, as without Robert it is difficult to predict how we will fare. Obviously, we need a driver capable of winning the championship.”
With the second pre-season test at Jerez set to start in less than 24 hours, it is expected that the team will announce its test line-up very shortly, possibly giving some hint as to whom they have in mind as a potential replacement.
The team currently has a roster of five reserve drivers: Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean both have prior (albeit limited) F1 racing experience, while Ho-Pin Tung, Jan Charouz and Fairuz Fauzy have none and could reasonably be discounted.
There are also a host of drivers with F1 experience seemingly out of contract, with the likes of Nick Heidfeld, Pedro de la Rosa, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien probably best positioned as possible candidates. Former Super Aguri driver Anthony Davidson has already ruled himself out as a candidate.
Indeed, Klien’s manager, Roman Rumenigge, is one of the few driver managers to have gone on the record as to indicate that Renault may be an option for his client, who drove three races for the tail-ender HRT outfit in 2010 after a lengthy absence from competition.
“Until now, HRT was the only team with a free cockpit,” he told the Austrian APA news agency. “After the drama with Kubica I must of course follow my duty as manager and also consider Renault as an option.”
There have also been rumours of former World Champion Kimi Räikkönen being under consideration – with figures from Citroen’s rally group confirming that the Finn can return to F1 if he chooses.