With Robert Kubica beginning a slow recovery from the dreadful injuries he suffered on Sunday, Renault team principal Eric Boullier faces the unenviable task of finding a substitute for his star driver.
Renault already has a pair of third drivers, Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean, plus three reserve drivers – Fairuz Fauzy, Ho-Pin Tung and Jan Charouz. But are any of them up to taking Kubica’s place for what is likely to be an entire year?
Renault were on the cusp of challenging for race victories last year, and instead of promoting one of their existing drivers they may prefer to go with a proven front-running driver – if they can find one.
Here are some of the options that might be open to them.
For: Former world champion with 18 F1 wins to his name and eight years’ experience with top teams McLaren and Ferrari.
Against: Has been out of F1 for a year. Had a public spat with the team last year in which he accused them of using his name to gain publicity.
Afterwards he said: “I have never even seriously considered driving for Renault, and I can assure you that I am 100 per cent sure that I will not drive for Renault next season.”
Read more: Kimi R?â?ñikk?â?Ânen biography
For: Available, raced in 2010 and has extensive experience of testing the Pirelli tyres.
Spent three-and-a-half years as Kubica’s team mate. Also, he is smaller than Kubica, so fitting him in the car and using KERS should not be a problem.
A safe pair of hands, Heidfeld holds the record for most consecutive race finishes.
Against: No wins in 172 races – he also holds the record for most second-place finishes without a win.
Read more: Nick Heidfeld biography
Pedro de la Rosa
For: Like Heidfeld he is available, raced in 2010 and has extensive experience of testing the Pirelli tyres.
Against: Like Heidfeld there are also question marks over his performance.
Read more: Pedro de la Rosa biography
For: According to Boullier if Renault are going to promote from within, Senna is the man who’ll get the drive.
Against: Limited experience – did one race less than a full season last year.
Read more: Bruno Senna biography
For: Promising rookie of 2010 who took pole position in Brazil last year. Was dropped by Williams largely for budget reasons.
Tested the 2011-specification Pirellis last week.
Against: Would need to be borrowed from Force India. Only has one season of F1 race experience.
Read more: Nico H?â??lkenberg biography
For: Has 2010 F1 race experience.
Against: Was dropped by Force India for 2011 despite having a contract for the season.
Read more: Vitantonio Liuzzi biography
For: Knows the team – drove for them from 1998-2001 and 2005-2007.
Against: Has been out of F1 for a year, would need to be borrowed from Ferrari.
Read more: Giancarlo Fisichella biography
For: Has a huge amount of F1 test experience.
Against: Hasn’t raced in F1 since 2008 and told F1 Fanatic last year the sport is a “closed book” for him.
According to Byron Young he has ruled himself out of the seat and is concentrating on his sports car commitment with Peugeot.
Read more: Anthony Davidson biography
Some outsiders to keep an eye on:
Romain Grosjean – Renault’s other third driver. Only started seven F1 races, all with the team at the end of 2009. Would need replacing at DAMS GP2 team.
Lucas di Grassi – Former Renault development driver who did a full season with Virgin last year before being dropped.
Christian Klien – Another driver with 2010 F1 race experience.
David Coulthard – Hasn’t raced an F1 car since 2008. Tons of experience, but would need to extract himself from Mercedes and BBC commitments.
Whatever Renault choose to do, they can’t wait long to make a decision. There is precious little testing time between now and the start of the season, and the next test in Jerez starts in just two days’ time.
And Petrov’s role should not be overlooked either. As the driver with the most experience of the new Renault and a full season with the team last year, the pressure will be on him to perform.
Who do you think Renault will choose? Who would be the best choice for the team? Have your say in the comments.
Robert Kubica rally crash
- Kubica tests DTM Mercedes at Valencia
- Kubica says he will return to F1 if he feels fit enough
- Kubica suffers injury setback after fall
- Robert Kubica to miss start of 2012 season
- Kubica’s final operation “a total success”
- Kubica hopes to leave hospital “within ten days”
- Kubica “better every day” but too soon to decide on return
- Heidfeld: “not the way I would have liked” to return
- Renault confirm Heidfeld to take Kubica’s place
- Kubica to have final surgery on Wednesday
Image ?é?® Julien Leroy / firstlap.be