To complete another piece of the F1 2011 driver merry-go-round jigsaw, Robert Kubica has agreed a two-year extension to his Renault contract that will keep him at the Enstone-based outfit until at least the end of 2012.
Kubica has without doubt been one of – if not indeed the – stand-out performers thus far this season, hauling his R30 into places it arguably has no business being, never failing to make the top ten on the starting grid, sensationally qualifying on the front row in Monaco, finishing all-bar one race inside the points, rarely making even the tiniest error and notching up a brace of impressive podiums in Melbourne and Monte Carlo.
Those results place the Pole sixth in the title standings at the midway point, ahead of the likes of Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and record-breaking multiple F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher – all of whom are, on paper at least, in better machinery – and potentially even a dark horse for the crown.
After possible moves to Ferrari and Red Bull Racing ultimately came to nought and given the progress Renault has made this year – as indisputably the most-improved team of the campaign off the back of a torrid 2009 that almost saw the French manufacturer exit the sport altogether – it was perhaps a no-brainer that Kubica would elect to stay put, but that he has signed on the dotted line for two years might come as a surprise, given that his name remains linked to the Scuderia
, RBR and Mercedes Grand Prix in the longer-term. The Kraków native, however, insists there were many reasons to seal the deal.
“It was a straightforward decision for me to continue with a team where I feel at home,” acknowledged the 25-year-old. “What's important for me is to be in the right atmosphere, with a good group of people where everybody is pulling in the same direction. This is what we have tried to build from the beginning of my time with Renault.
“I think we have already achieved a lot together, and I believe that with plenty of effort, time and the right approach, we can move even further forward. That is certainly our target, so we will keep working hard and pushing on every front, not just for the rest of this season but also for next year when there are more big rule changes on the way. I am really looking forward to the challenge.”
The target for Renault and co-owner Genii Capital is to return to genuine contention for the world championship laurels over the seasons to-come, and combined with Kubica's talent behind the steering wheel, team principal Eric Boullier is convinced that the Oxfordshire operation's vision, commitment and speedy rate of technical development will prove to be more than up to the task of successfully accomplishing that objective.
“We are delighted that Robert will remain with us for the next two seasons, and I would like to thank him for the faith he has shown in this team,” underlined the Frenchman. “There have been many rumours surrounding his future in recent weeks, which were a tribute to how well he has driven this year, and we are very happy to have agreed a multi-year deal.
“Our clear goal is to become title contenders over the next two years. To do so, we need a driver of Robert's calibre – somebody who is fast, totally committed and doesn't make mistakes. His performances during the first half of the 2010 season were flawless, and we hope to achieve great things together in the future.”
The identity of Kubica's team-mate next year remains unknown, with Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov under consideration but Boullier stressing that the 'Vyborg Rocket' must score more points if he is to stay on-board, and Renault understood to also be making a play for the services of World Rally Championship-convert and 2007 F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen as it bids to persuade the Finn to rejoin the grand prix grid.