SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium — Renault is undecided about whether to give Robert Kubica a shot at driving in Formula One next year.
The Polish driver, who last raced in F1 seven years ago, drove a Renault F1 car in testing at the Hungaroring circuit in Hungary last month.
Although it looked like another step back to F1 — six years after serious right arm injuries — there are still doubts.
“We would all like Robert to be back, but it has to make sense,” Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul said on Friday. “It may or may not be possible.”
There will be a spot available if Renault does not give British driver Jolyon Palmer a new contract, but Abiteboul is cautious as to whether 32-year-old Kubica can step in.
“It is something we are taking very seriously and trying to leave all the emotion to one side,” Abiteboul said at the Belgian Grand Prix. “We don’t have all the answers. … In a perfect world we want to do more tests.”
If Kubica returned, he would team with German driver Nico Hulkenberg. While Hulkenberg has 26 points with a best finish of sixth, Palmer has not scored a point.
But a decision on Kubica is made more difficult by a lack of further testing and by a volatile drivers’ market creating more availability for 2018. With Fernando Alonso unhappy with the under-performing McLaren car, the two-time F1 champion could also be an option for Renault.
“We are one driver to decide on for next year,” Abiteboul said, referring to Palmer’s position. “We also need to be consistent with the timing on deciding for our second driver.”
Before his testing stint in Hungary, Kubica also tested out a lighter 2012 F1 model. But driving a current F1 car, with its increased downforce and wider tires, is far more demanding on Kubica’s arm.
“We have access to some information that the public and the media don’t have access to. I feel that it’s private information to the team, and Robert and I would not want to speak without his (consent),” Abiteboul said. “There are various things to do to be coming back at this level. Without going into it too much, you could see what it could involve to go one step further.”
Kubica, a popular driver in F1 from 2006-10, was seriously injured after opting to try his luck at rally driving in 2011.
In February of that year, a high-speed crash at the Ronde di Andora rally left him requiring extensive surgery on his right arm. His right hand was partially severed, and he sustained further arm and leg fractures. He was trapped in the car for more than one hour and needed seven hours of treatment after being airlifted to the hospital.
It was initially feared he could lose his right hand, and a promising career came to a brutal halt.
Kubica earned 12 F1 podium finishes and was seen as one of the brightest talents in the series. He won the Canadian GP driving for BMW Sauber in 2008, after a second-place finish at the Monaco GP in the previous race.