The furore surrounding Nick Heidfeld's axing from the Lotus Renault GP line-up ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix masks the fact that neither the German nor replacement Bruno Senna is at the head of the team's list of drivers for next season.
Team principal Eric Boullier openly admits that Robert Kubica remains the number one choice to lead the squad in 2012, provided the Pole can fully recover from the injuries he sustained in a rally accident prior to the start of the current campaign. Boullier confirmed that Kubica is set to undergo one final operation to expedite his path to recovery, and revealed that he hoped to be able to test the Pole's fitness towards the end of the season.
Renault doctor Riccardo Ceccarelli has explained that the remaining surgery is designed to improve the mobility of Kubica's right elbow, which was badly damaged in the crash during February Ronde di Andora rally in Italy, and should allow the Pole to work towards the sort of recovery that would eventually permit a return to an F1 cockpit, although Boullier has played down suggestions that the former F1 race winner could be back on board this season.
"Robert has another surgery to go through, so we will have to wait and see when he's fully recovered," the Frenchman told reporters at Spa-Francorchamps, "I know this is the last [operation] before he can finally start his full rehabilitation, but I don't believe that he will be able to race again [this season]. He's recovering well but the last operation will be another pain to go through, and not only will he have to be ready physically, but he still needs to get back his feeling of the car."
While Kubica has already been linked to a test in Renault's F1 simulator, Boullier hinted that he may arrange for the Pole to drive a two-year old race car to better assess his ability in an actual cockpit, but accepted that that would be more difficult to finalise without pushing the sport's testing regulations.
Despite the uncertainty, Boullier made it clear that, at present, he still considered Kubica his number one choice to lead the team next season, but admitted that there were plenty of options to be considered.
"2012 is next
season, so we will see," he told the official F1 website, "We have to consider many scenarios. Robert, obviously, is our number one scenario; Romain Grosjean is doing a good job; and let's wait and see what Bruno is doing and delivering for the next eight races."
"We still do not know exactly, but I think there will be clarity in a few weeks," concurred Lotus Renault GP majority owner Gérard Lopez, speaking to the Tageblatt Luxembourg
newspaper, "At the moment, we are still expecting that in 2012, Robert will be racing with us."
Kubica, meanwhile, has also issued a 'we'll see' response to suggestions that he may be back in action for 2012.
"I always enjoy setting a goal, when circumstances allow," the 26-year old is quoted by Italy's Autosprint
magazine, "We'll see how my rehabilitation goes over the next few months. I'm satisfied with what's been happening until now, as there are no complications, but there is no hurry. What is important is that Renault is keeping my place."