Nick Heidfeld's time at Lotus Renault F1 is up, according to the BBC
, amid speculation that the German is to be replaced by Bruno Senna ahead of this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.
Just days after the Enstone team was criticised by BBC
pundit Eddie Jordan for its 'bullying' treatment of Heidfeld, the British broadcaster announced that Senna would take the German's place alongside Vitaly Petrov, effectively becoming the second replacement for the injured Robert Kubica following the Pole's pre-season rally accident.
Senna briefly replaced Heidfeld in free practice for the recent Hungarian Grand Prix, but that move was seen merely as a fulfilment of the Brazilian's contractual requirements, as he brings much-needed sponsorship to Renault. Now, however, he is to be given a chance to show what he can do over the remaining eight races, with the Belgian round being his first race appearance since completing the 2010 season with backmarker HRT.
The 27-year old failed to score last season, and will hope that Renault holds on to its top ten potential, despite the team appearing to be on the slide after a promising start to the 2011 campaign, when both Heidfeld and Petrov claimed podium finishes. The German currently lies eighth overall in the 2011 standings, two points ahead of Petrov.
Having made a late appearance at BMW Sauber in 2010, Heidfeld - who has finished second in a grand prix no fewer than eight times, but has never won a race, and now holds the record for scoring the greatest number of points without topping the podium - had hoped that his role with Renault could lead to a full-time ride for the future, but he now looks set to be cast back into the melting pot of drivers chasing a limited number of seats in 2012.
Senna could yet join Heidfeld in that group, with reports that Kubica could be sufficiently recovered to test in a simulator by the end of September. Should he prove not to have lost his edge, the Pole would be favourite to reclaim his Renault ride next season, but the team has no shortage of potential replacements, with GP2 points leader Romain Grosjean expected to head the list. The Frenchman is unlikely to be considered for Heidfeld's seat until he clinched the title, but could appear at the end of the season if Kubica is unable to return that early.