Romain Grosjean is looking more and more likely to make a return to the F1 grid in 2012, and could yet be a full-time part of the Lotus Renault line-up should Robert Kubica not be ready to return from injury.
While the Pole is far from fully recovered from the effects of his pre-season rallying accident, he remains team boss Eric Boullier's first choice should he be fit for next year, but Boullier also has vested interests in promoting Grosjean, who is already part of Renault's development squad, from GP2 for the second time.
The Franco-Swiss driver was thrown in at the deep end following the 'Crashgate' scandal that led to Nelson Piquet Jr's exit from Enstone and, in a car far inferior to this year's model, struggled to gain a foothold. Instead, after establishing a disappointing reputation in the top flight, Grosjean has been forced to take a roundabout route back to F1's door, using sportscars and AutoGP - where he won the 2010 title - to get back into GP2.
Now, having taken the DAMS team back to the top of the championship - and adding both a podium and win in the latest double-header in Germany - Grosjean is again being touted as a potential grand prix pilot for 2012.
While he would make an ideal foil to Kubica should the Pole return to lead the squad next season, Grosjean and Boullier - who looks after his driver's interests via the Gravity management arm of Gerard Lopez's motorsport empire - may have to look elsewhere for a drive. The paddock rumour mill suggests that Nick Heidfeld is angling after the role of experienced team leader should Kubica fail to make it, while Boullier has already been questioned about the team's apparent interest in either Felipe Massa or Mark Webber as he does not consider second-year driver Vitaly Petrov as leadership material.
Neither Massa or Webber have yet to ink new deals, with Ferrari and Red Bull respectively, although both are expected to do so before too long and, with Petrov expected to be retained for the second year of his current deal, it may be that Grosjean has to serve an apprenticeship elsewhere on the grid.
With Boullier also a key figure in a French government committee aiming to re-establish the country on the F1 calendar, getting the likes of Grosjean, or others such as Ferrari development driver Jules Bianchi and GP2 rival Charles Pic, into the top flight is imperative.
"We are working hard to get Grosjean [into F1], as France needs a good F1 driver," Boullier told Poland's Wirtualna Polska
, while admitting to Germany's motorsport-total.com
that 'the situation is unusual because of [Kubica], because we want to wait and see how his situation develops and how and when he can come back'.
"[Grosjean] is on my radar," Boullier reiterated, "He's reflecting very well in GP2, and proves that he is now very mature and belongs in F1. He has changed a lot [since 2009], and is much more mature than he was then. I honestly believe that he has the potential to belong here in F1 with the big boys."