On the heels of Fernando Alonso’s announcement that he would jump ship from Renault next year to join Ferrari, Renault were quick to fill the gap left by the Spaniard, by signing BMW pilot Robert Kubica as their lead driver. Kubica had been relegated to free agent status during the summer when BMW formally announced their withdrawal from the series next season.
Kubica’s future with the French team, however, is not necessarily assured. While the team has been operating on the premise that they will be taking their places on the grid next season, the team’s parent company has yet to either finalize a budget for 2010 or confirm their long-term participation in the series. They have made several public statements to the effect that they will make a final decision on the matter by the end of this year.
According to a report in Spain’s Diario AS, if Renault is unable to confirm their commitment in the next few weeks, Kubica will be a free agent again. Should this be the case, it might well work in the Pole’s favor.
Mercedes seem to be at a stalemate in choosing a second driver for their squad for next year. According to paddock gossip, they might be waiting for Michael Schumacher to make up his mind about coming out of retirement. While this possibility has stirred up much excitement in the F1 community, it seems unlikely, even if Schumacher were willing to make a return to the cockpit for 2010, that he would be interested in reviving his driving career on a long-term basis.
It might be that Mercedes, rather than pinning their hopes on a Schumacher renaissance, are actually waiting to see if Kubica comes back on the market again. This might not be clear until late December.
Certainly, if Kubica had a choice, he would prefer to join Mercedes over Renault. The French team has been in free fall for the past couple of seasons, and they have given little indication that a recovery is in their immediate future. Mercedes, on the other hand, is in a good position to build on the strengths exhibited by Brawn in 2009. Clearly, Kubica’s choice to opt for Renault was informed by a lack of competitive options. Unfortunately, by the time it was known that Mercedes had a vacancy (i.e. by the time Jenson Button had made public his switch to McLaren), he had already inked a deal with the Renault.
Timing is key in Formula 1, as in most aspects of life. Talent and luck are essential, but poorly timed choices can scuttle a good driver’s career. Great drivers seem to avoid this pitfall, landing in the best teams at their peak periods. Jenson Button, on the other hand, prior to this year, was known as a team-hopper who seemed to have an unerring instinct for joining teams that were in periods of decline. Whether this ends up being Kubica’s reputation as well remains to be seen.
Image by Red-Cyan, licensed through Creative Commons.