A clutch of motor racing stars have lambasted Lotus Renault GP for permitting Robert Kubica to indulge his second love of rallying so close to the beginning of the F1 2011 World Championship campaign, variously describing the decision as 'crazy' and 'unwise' and stressing that as 'the key to success' in the sport, teams should 'look after' their drivers rather than put them at risk.
Kubica is currently undergoing surgery in hospital in Italy to try to repair fractures in his arm and leg and a badly-injured hand, following his accident less than five kilometres into the Ronde di Andora Rally close to Genoa on Sunday morning. The Pole's injuries are only so severe due to a piece of Armco barrier penetrating the Skoda Fabia RS he was piloting with co-driver Jakub Gerber – who emerged unscathed – and going right the way through the car.
The 26-year-old remains sedated to cope with the pain and is likely to stay in intensive care for several days to come, having improved from an initially 'critical' condition after reportedly losing five pints of blood following the accident, which has destroyed his 2011 season – what had looked set to be the finest of his F1 career to-date – and is threatening to potentially destroy his entire future in the top flight.
Lotus Renault GP managing director Eric Boullier has defended the decision to let Kubica compete in extra-curricular pre-season activities 'because rallying is in his heart', reasoning that 'rally driving is vital for Robert' [see separate story – click here
] and telling French sports newspaper L'Equipe
that 'he could also have been run over by a bus going to get his bread'.
Gerber, meanwhile, has insisted the former Canadian Grand Prix-winner was blameless in the crash [see separate story – click here
] and instead pointed the finger at the rally's roads and the car's front-impact safety standards – but many believe that it was madness to allow Kubica to compete in the first place.
“It's quite a challenge to stop drivers doing the things I believe are unwise leading up to a F1 season,” triple F1 World Champion and former team owner Sir Jackie Stewart told The Daily Telegraph
, “[but] you've got to look after that investment.”
“What's the point in pushing hard for the highest safety standards in F1 if a driver is then seriously hurt in other racing activities?” questioned Kubica's erstwhile BMW-Sauber team principal Dr. Mario Theissen in an interview with The Associated Press
, acknowledging that he had 'sympathy' for Kubica's passion for going rallying but maintaining that he had been right never to allow his driver to so. “The driver is key to success in F1 – only he can turn the tremendous effort of several hundred equally determined people into results.”
commentator Martin Brundle, meanwhile, described Lotus Renault GP's stance as 'crazy', whilst erstwhile IndyCar-turned-NASCAR ace Patrick Carpentier concurred.
“If I was to blame someone, it would be his team, who should never have released him [to rally],” the French-Canadian told Rue Frontenac
, “especially so close to the start of the new season and between two test sessions – what bad timing.”
What do you
think? Was Lotus Renault GP right or wrong to let Kubica compete on the Ronde di Andora? Have your say in our poll right here