Who should replace Robert Kubica at Renault?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 Posted by the sportsloop team
It may be somewhat of an understatement to say that Renault’s Eric Boullier would be a man with quite a bit to think about at the moment.

With Renault’s innovative front exiting exhaust system, competitive times in Valencia, and a fired up Kubica at the wheel, things were looking very promising for Renault. Now faced with the loss of arguably the team’s greatest asset, Boullier must decide who will replace Kubica, for what is likely to be an appointment for the entire 2011 campaign.

The choice takes on extra significance as the team’s number two, Vitaly Petrov, would very unlikely have gotten a second season with the team if it weren’t for the bags of Russian Rubles he brings with him. While I expect him to improve in 2011 he’s still very much a work in progress and unlikely to lead a team with aspirations of winning races this year.

Let’s take a look at some of the candidates who might be waiting on a call from Boullier this week.

Bruno Senna – The first of Renault’s reserve drivers, Senna would be a shoe-in if Kubica’s absence was short term. However would the team feel comfortable running a driver pairing with a combined total of two years experience? Questions must also be asked of Senna’s ultimate pace – whilst last year’s HRT was a bit of a dog, the usually hapless Sakon Yamamoto was able to get uncomfortably close to Senna at times. Not a good look for a driver with aspirations of moving up the field. He would be a risky choice for Renault, but
due to his role in the team must be considered a solid chance for the drive.

Romain Grosjean – The second of Renault’s reserve drivers. Grosjean drove the second half of the 2009 season for the team after Piquet was shown the door, however was trounced by team mate Alonso and did nothing to convince that he had the raw speed necessary to be a top flight F1 driver. Eric Boullier seems to have taken a liking to the lad, but it would be highly unlikely to find him in the Renault cockpit this year.

Nick Heidfeld – Now considered a veteran, having made his debut back in 2000. A very solid pair of hands, and probably the most underrated driver of recent times. Heidfeld proved a match for Webber, helped end Villeneuve’s career and, despite perceptions, was quite evenly matched with Kubica during their BMW days. Brings huge experience and reliable speed to the team, but having started more Grands Prix without winning than any driver in the history of the sport, does he have the killer edge to lead the team to victories this season? Given the right equipment I think so, and I would consider him the favourite
to take Kubica’s seat.

Tonio Liuzzi – The likable Italian is now on the market having recently been, what can only be described as ‘shafted’ by Force India. He’s quick and brings with him over 60 Grand Prix starts in addition to his experience as a test driver for Force India. His experience and speed would be assets to the team, however Liuzzi has often struggled with to perform consistently, which could be an issue for a team with Petrov in the other car.

Pedro de la Rosa – Like Heidfeld, has been around the sport for years, but  hasn’t raced a full season since 2002. Renowned as a tester, and currently working in that capacity for Pirelli, he brings incredible technical know how to the team. However, whilst a very capable driver, the fact that no one has hired him for a full season in nearly a decade tells a story in itself. I would be surprised to see de la Rosa racing for Renault this year.

Nico Hulkenberg – Showed last year that he has pace, but overall was shaded by Barrichello. Given he is another driver with only a single season under his belt I think it’s unlikely that Renault would take the risk.

Kimi Raikkonen – The man nearly everyone in F1 would dearly love to see slide into the Renault. However having lashed out at the team over their leaking details of discussions over a 2011 race seat, it’s quite unlikely they would pick up the phone to him again now. Plus, there’s the small matter of him running his own WRC team this year.

Who do you think Renault should hire?



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