Just days after the Lotus Renault GP team make the not unexpected joint statement with Robert Kubica that he would not be fit enough to return to racing ahead of the start of the 2012 season, the Pole’s manager has fired an extraordinary broadside at the team, claiming that Renault has twisted the 26-year-old’s words.
“I came to the conclusion that I am not yet certain to be ready for the 2012 season,” Kubica is reported to have said in the team’s media release.
The team’s statement added: “It is still too early for him to commit to driving in the 2012 championship.”
But a report doing the rounds in Reuters, his manager Daniele Morelli has vehemently denied Renault’s assertion that Kubica had ruled himself out for the start of the 2012 season.
“I don’t understand why Renault has changed Robert’s words,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“It’s not true he won’t be ready for 2012: he stated he doesn’t have certainty that he will be in shape for the first tests in February.”
To us, this reads like a game of semantics, and Renault team principal Eric Boullier is at a loss to understand why Morelli would be upset when had vetted Kubica’s entire statement beforehand.
“He approved the communication so everything was fine. He approved it, and now he is upset with I don’t know what to be honest. I don’t want to comment more because it’s a waste of time.”
But something about this entire tit-for-tat exchange is not sitting well, and we will go out on a limb to suggest that this is a ploy by Morelli to create a rift between Kubica and Renault, ostensibly with the aim of getting the Pole into the arms of another team: Ferrari.
What’s less well known is that, since 2010, Ferrari has had an option on Kubica to join the Italian team from 2013, the year after Felipe Massa’s contract runs out.
It is believed that Ferrari let that option lapse some months ago while the Pole was in hospital recovering from his rallying injuries. Renault, meanwhile, has Kubica on the books until December, unless both parties come to an agreement to remain together.
Certainly, the team might feel morally duty-bound to provide him with a Formula 1 car and all of the wizardry to determine if he’s fit enough to go racing, there’s no obligation on their part to do so.
Not only is Kubica not ready to test for Renault in the pre-season, the more cynical might believe that he actually doesn’t want to race for them at all – and after the team’s 2011 season, few would blame him.
Despite having let their option on him lapse, Ferrari would be remiss not to still hold some interest in Kubica. But Kubica’s recovery is very much an unknown factor, and he’ll need to have plenty of testing mileage to determine if he can ever make a race return.
Ferrari would be prepared to make such a gamble: if he’s up to speed, the team has a crack line-up of Alonso and Kubica from 2013 onwards – perhaps even beforehand, if they elect to jettison the decidedly underwhelming Massa mid-2012. Has anyone noticed how Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo has recently starting turning the screws on Massa to lift his game in 2012?
So is Morelli playing the puppet master in the background while all of the chess pieces are lined up? One doubts we’ve heard the last of this…
[Original image via Sutton Images]