Interim Renault F1 team boss Bob Bell has confirmed that the Enstone squad is looking at a number of drivers to partner new signing Robert Kubica next season, but hoped to make a decision before too long.
Kubica was one of the earliest moves confirmed in the annual silly season, eschewing a late approach from Toyota to slip into the seat about to be vacated by double world champion Fernando Alonso despite Renault's much publicised off-track problems. The identity of his team-mate remains a mystery, however, with Bell admitting that comparative veterans Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock were on the list alongside rookie Romain Grosjean, who has yet to fully do himself justice since graduating from GP2
"It is a fact that there are quite a few drivers on the market at the minute, and I think, to do justice to the team, we have to look at all of the options, which is what we're doing," Bell told journalists in Abu Dhabi, "We're in the process of evaluating all of the drivers that are available, and we will make a decision on which driver we attempt to reach agreement with as rapidly as we can.
"It's important for the team to do that and we're not ruling out any possibilities. Romain still remains a possibility but, as I say, in fairness to ensuring that we deliver the best driver line-up to the team, we need to look at all the possible options.
"If Romain does drop out of the equation, yes, it will be sad to lose him from the Renault programme and obviously he's French, so that carries some consequences for the team but, ultimately - and I think Renault fully support us in this - we need to put the best drivers in the car that we can afford for next year. If that's Romain, fine; if it isn't, if it's someone else, then so be it, but our objective next year is to have the strongest line-up."
Grosjean arrived as Alonso's team-mate for the second half of 2009 ahead of the furore over predecessor Nelson Piquet Jr's role in the race fixing scandal that rocked the sport in the build-up to the Singapore GP, but the Frenchman has yet to better anything the Brazilian achieved in his 18 months as a member of the regie
, a victim of the lack of in-season testing allowed in modern F1.
"One of those points is fairly key and that is the inexperience," Bell admitted, "It is genuinely a fact that it is extremely difficult for a young driver now to enter F1 mid-season with no real testing experience behind him. If he's fortunate enough to be introduced to the team before the season starts, and can get through a winter testing programme, then it's one thing to be dropped [into the team] mid-season as Romain was.
"It's very hard for any of them, and that's a problem that F1 has put upon itself, quite rightly so. The reduction in testing was done for good reason, I'm not being critical of it, but it does make it difficult for drivers, so he's had an uphill struggle.
"He's done a sound job in dealing with that, [but] he has two problems that he has to confront. Firstly, his team-mate is a double world champion and that's a hard metric to judge yourself against as a young driver. And, secondly, we haven't given him a particularly good car, and that is equally hard for a young driver to come in [and face]. It hasn't been an easy birth for him in F1, but that doesn't deny that he's got a lot of talent and I'm very sure that, in the future, we will see that talent exploited."