With Jolyon Palmer’s future with the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team being under intense scrutiny after his failure to score points in the opening seven races, Robert Kubica has been touted as his replacement in 2018 following his recent test with the team in Spain, but team boss Cyril Abiteboul has downplayed these rumours.
Kubica completed 115-laps of the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in a 2012 Lotus E20, his first outing in a Formula 1 car since his career-threatening rallying crash in 2011, with the test aiming to see whether there were any limitations he faced, but these fears were soon to put to bed to the delight of the Polish driver.
But Abiteboul believes making any assumption that Kubica is now in contention to return to the team in 2018 are currently wide of the mark, and no one within the team, nor Kubica himself, should create expectations that could end up being unrealistic.
“I know that the sport is full of speculation and rumours and all these things,” said Abiteboul to Motorsport.com. “But I think in this present case we need to be a little bit careful, because we’re talking about an individual that we all love, with a fantastic image, and who has suffered a very difficult situation from a personal perspective.
“So I think I would ask on this occasion everyone to be a little bit careful. Yes, we have done that test, but we don’t want to create expectations in anyone’s mind, including Robert himself.”
Abiteboul knows that there is a possible vacancy in the team in 2018 alongside the already-confirmed Nico Hülkenberg, but he insists Palmer will remain with the team for the rest of this year despite his disappointing start to the year.
“Look, we’ll have at some point to discuss about our future line-up, that’s public information,” said Abiteboul. “We have a long-term contract with Nico, and a contract for 2017, and all of 2017, with Jolyon.
“But at some point we will have to review options. If by then, Robert becomes an option, we can have a look. As we speak, he’s not on the list. He has many more things he has to accomplish so that he could be on the list.”
Whilst unlikely to happen, Abiteboul admits that it could be possible that Kubica works his way onto the shortlist of drivers for 2018 and beyond, although there is still a long way to go for the Pole as he bids to return to Formula 1.
“The fact of the matter is simple,” said Abiteboul. “You know that there is at Enstone a group of people composed of Bob Bell, Nick Chester, Alan Permane, all these people have known Robert as a driver, have worked with him, and over the years – including when Robert was completely outside of the radar – they have maintained contact with him.
“And that’s something that they always discussed, what if, as a dream he was capable of driving again in this type of circumstance? We had this circumstance, we had this opportunity.
“This was a one-off, It’s part of a process of recovery for Robert, where he’s going to assess his limits – his physical limits, and also maybe his mental limits, what he has the appetite for going through also in terms of challenges, in terms of difficulties, in terms of risk, for himself for his image.
“He’s also done F2, GP3, LMP2, Formula E, so he’s done a number things, and this was also part of the programme. But I don’t want to create an obligation on Renault or Robert that there is a next step.”