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Renault’s Boullier Admits Kubica Out for Months, Considers Replacements

Robert Kubica

Two days after Robert Kubica’s crash in a recent rally race, the extent of his injuries is becoming more apparent.  According to a statement released by Renault, “On Thursday, Robert should undergo some more surgery in order to stabilise the fractures to his right shoulder and right foot.  Three or four days later, another operation will allow his elbow fracture to be stabilized as well.”

In other words, the damage to his right hand and forearm was serious enough that doctors have put off dealing with the wounds to his other extremities.  An official report indicated that his right hand had been “partially severed.”  According to some reports, he lost five pints of blood in the aftermath of the crash, before doctors were able to stabilize his condition.

The team’s press release went on to say, “Robert will remain at the Santa Corona Hospital for two to three weeks. A decision will then be taken about where he should go in order to continue his rehabilitation.”

Meanwhile, the team is beginning to discuss more openly the possibility of finding a replacement for Kubica for what could be the majority of the 2011 season.  Renault boss Eric Boullier has admitted that Kubica is likely to be sidelined for months rather than weeks, although he stopped short of saying that the Pole would be out of action for the entire year.

“He is definitely out for a couple of months,” Boullier told the BBC. “The recovery will be quicker than one year, but it is a bit early to know exactly how long he will need.”

Bollier went on to say that the team would defer making a decision on whether or not to hire a substitute driver (that is, someone other than either their current reserve driver, Bruno Senna, or their current tester, Roman Grojean) until doctors had come up with a projected time line for Kubica’s recovery.

“We are already starting to think, and work, on a contingency plan,” Boullier said, “but 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.”

Who would be in the picture to replace Kubica?  Both Tonio Liuzzi and Nico Hulkenberg have rather coyly admitted interest.  Timo Gans, who helps manage the Hulk, told The Daily Mail,  “We have a contract with Force India and we will not take the initiative to contact Renault. If Renault should contact us we will start thinking about that, but we are not doing that yet. Hopefully Robert gets well soon.”  In other words, they don’t want to seem like vultures, but they do want Renault to know that their boy Nico just might be available.

Likewise, Tonio Liuzzi managed to express interest in a politic way by saying, “A lot of people talked about this: not the team, but a lot of journalists.  Personally, at the moment I think Robert’s health is the first thing. Then, it’s obvious that when Renault are sure that Robert won’t be able to step in the car, this chance might be open and I hope to be chosen instead of somebody else. But, again, at the moment Robert’s health is the priority.”

Obviously, either one of these drivers would probably walk over his ancient grandmother to get a drive with Renault, but neither one of them (or their surrogates) can admit to it in so many words, at least while Kubica is still in serious condition.  It seems like a long shot that Hulkenberg would be drafted, considering that he’s currently under contract to Force India.  Liuzzi, on the other hand, has no such encumbrances, nor does fellow unemployed driver Nick Heidfeld.

Both of those drivers carry an aura of stale goods, however.  Of the two, Heidfeld has more experience, which would make him a more prudent choice, considering that Renault will want to optimize their development time in advance of the season. Assuming that Kubica will be out of commission for some months to come, Renault will want to decide quickly, so that they can get on with developing the new car, which looks promising.

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