Renault begin search for Robert Kubica replacement
Renault on the lookout for replacement driver after Kubica suffered serious injuries in rally crash
Renault have confirmed they will now look to replace Robert Kubica for the start of the 2011 Formula 1 season.
Kubica sustained multiple fractures to his right hand, arm and leg after crashing into a church wall during the Rally Ronde di Andora on Sunday and underwent a seven-hour operation to attempt to save his hand near Genoa.
A statement from Renault on Monday read: “Robert’s general condition is much better today.
“After spending the night under constant observation, he was briefly woken up by the doctors of the Santa Corona Hospital this morning. The Lotus Renault GP driver was then able to talk to his relatives. He was also able to move his fingers, which is encouraging for the rest of his recovery process.
“Professor Mario Igor Rossello, Director for the Regional Centre of Hand Surgery at San Paolo Hospital in Savona, did not notice any swelling or infection on his right forearm, and this is another good sign, although it will be several days before it is known if the operation has been 100 per cent successful.
“In order to avoid any physical stress, Robert will be put under gentle medication in order to sleep for the next 24 hours at least. Meanwhile, the doctors will decide how they will treat his elbow and shoulder fractures. Robert may have to undergo surgery once again for this, but not for a few days.”
Rossello intimated on Sunday that rehabilitation, particularly of the hand, could take up to one year which would see Kubica miss the entire season.
However, Renault team principal Eric Boullier remains hopeful Kubica will be out of action for less than a year but could not give a more specific timescale for recover.
“We are already starting to think and work on a contingency plan,” said Boullier.
“We don’t know yet, we are actually waiting to know how long it will take because [if it is] a short-term replacement we will take one of our reserve drivers; if he has to be longer we may have to consider different options.”
The team have no shortage of reserve drivers with former Hispania Racing Team driver Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean -who is set to drive in the GP2 Series this year -both contracted, as well as the inexperienced Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy and China’s Ho-Ping Tung.
Both Senna and Petrov debuted in 2010 while Grosjean’s only F1 race experience came in 2008, prompting speculation linking former world champion Kimi RÃƒÂ¤ikkÃƒÂ¶nen with the number one seat should a long-term replacement be necessary.
The Finn had been linked with a move to Renault for 2011 throughout last season but said he never seriously considered a return to F1 and has already confirmed his participation in the World Rally Championship.
Away from the Renault team, former Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld could provide the pace and experience to lead the team and develop the R31, while former Red Bull and Force India driver Tonio Liuzzi would also offer race experience, but not necessarily the name to lead the team.
Some have even suggested Force India reserve driver Nico HÃƒÂ¼lkenberg -touted by some as the new Michael Schumacher -could switch, despite also debuting in 2010.
With a view to replacing Kubica for the season opener in Bahrain, Senna is expected to step in to test the R31 at Jerez later this week, with Grosjean currently testing with the DAMS team in Abu Dhabi ahead of the opening GP2 Asia Series race this weekend.