JULY 20, 2010
Who partners Kubica at Renault?
With McLaren, Red Bull Racing, Ferrari and Mercedes apparently firmed up for 2011, although some suggest that Michael Schumacher may retire again at the end of the year, there is considerable interest in the second Renault seat alongside Robert Kubica.
Russian Vitaly Petrov has far from disgraced himself in his rookie season but, on average, has qualified around 0.6s behind Kubica. In the constructors' championship, Renault has targeted Mercedes and is currently 37 points behind their German rivals. In the top-scoring cars of the respective teams, Nico Rosberg has taken 90 points and Kubica, 83. In the second cars, however, Schumacher has outscored Petrov “ whose only points finish came in China “ by 36 points to six.
One experienced, proven front-running driver without a seat is Mercedes reserve driver Nick Heidfeld, who partnered Kubica at BMW before Munich withdrew. Heidfeld, however, is thought to be on a healthy retainer at Mercedes and would no doubt hope to step into Schumacher's place if Michael does stop again, although Norbert Haug has admitted to visiting Kimi Raikkonen recently. The Finn's name is also on the list of potential Renault candidates with Raikkonen, currently doing the world rally championship with Citroen, not yet firm about his 2011 plans.
Virgin Racing's Timo Glock came close to joining Renault last year but with a degree of uncertainty over the team's future at the time, not to mention Kubica in the other car, elected to go the Virgin route. With any doubts about Renault now dispelled, however, Glock may be tempted to reconsider if there is still an offer on the table.
Force India's Adrian Sutil is another mentioned in the Renault equation, which could free up a Force India seat for either reserve driver Paul di Resta or, now that he has some F1 experience under his belt, Karun Chandhok. Renault personnel also already know and respect Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen, who drove for the team before his spell at McLaren.
Kamui Kobayashi has turned in two impressive drives for Sauber at Valencia and Silverstone but is expected to be retained by the Swiss team, while Renault team boss Eric Boullier has been impressed by Argentine driver Jose Maria Lopez in the junior formulae. Lopez was expecting to race with the stillborn USF1 outfit in 2010.
Former Jaguar driver and current HRT reserve driver Christian Klien, as well as Bruno Senna, are both believed to have been in contact with Renault but, if the requirement is a known point-scorer to boost the team's strength in the manufacturers championship, a driver such as Raikkonen or Heidfeld could be expected to be in pole position for the seat.