The rumour mill might repeatedly insist that Robert Kubica is all-but a shoo-in to move to Ferrari alongside double world champion and close friend Fernando Alonso in 2011, but new Renault F1 owner Gérard Lopez is adamant that provided he can give the Pole the tools and conditions to build his current team around him, he will neither want nor need to go anywhere else.
Kubica has inarguably been one of the stand-out performers thus far in F1 2010, never failing to make the top ten on the starting grid and four times finishing inside the points in the opening five grands prix, with a superb second place ahead of the two Ferraris in Australia, an impressive fourth in Malaysia and a strong fifth in China elevating the Kraków native to eighth in the drivers' standings, a mere five markers adrift of Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa – and ahead of a certain Michael Schumacher in a faster Mercedes.
Not only that, but he is the only man to have out-qualified his team-mate – feisty young Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov – on every occasion to-date, and in Barcelona last weekend speculation began to spread that Kubica has signed an 'option' to compete for Ferrari next year, in-place of the presently rather lacklustre Massa [see separate story – click here
In the 25-year-old's favour are his strong relationship with fellow poker player Alonso – in contrast to the seemingly already deteriorating partnership between the Spaniard and Massa this season – and the fact that he is supported by Sergio Marchionne, CEO of the Scuderia's
parent company FIAT.
Lopez, however, contends that at Renault, Kubica has the perfect chance to mould the team around him – much like Schumacher did with such great success at first Benetton and subsequently Ferrari. All that remains now, he acknowledges, is to convince the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix-winner to stay.
“He's a racer,” the man who assumed the helm at the Enstone-based outfit over the winter told former ITV-F1
commentator James Allen. “He lives for racing, not politics. Robert has a unique opportunity to build a team around him. Few drivers have the talent that he has to do it, and few teams would do it with someone.
“If he feels that the team is going in the right direction to become world champions, which is our intention, then he has no reason to go somewhere else. I don't know if he's interested [in going to Ferrari], but he's a young driver so he has plenty of time. If we can provide him with a car and a platform to win, then I think there is a high probability that he stays.
“Our objective is to ensure that he contributes as much as possible. In his previous team (BMW-Sauber), one of the big issues with Robert was that he couldn't communicate as he wanted because he feared the backlash. Here, he is being motivated and pushed to speak as much as he can. It's a good fit. I've never seen him smile as much as he does now.”
Lopez was faced with an arduous task after taking over control of a team that had been battered from pillar-to-post in 2009, with the explosive 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal doing nothing for Renault's global image or reputation and sending leading sponsors scurrying for the exit door.