The man overseeing Robert Kubica's recuperation following his horror rally smash at the start of the year is confident that the Pole can reclaim his place on the F1 grid next season.
Renowned F1 doctor Riccardo Ceccarelli told Italy's Omnicorse
that he expects Kubica, who has undergone five operations since the accident on February's Ronda di Andora rally that left him with multiple fractures and a partially severed right hand, to be approaching the necessary level of fitness by the middle of the off-season, and should be ready to consider a return to action next year.
“I would say with certainty that Robert will be an F1 driver in 2012," Ceccarelli claimed, “I cannot say when he will be ready, but it will be between the months of November and January.
“It is true that he still has an external fixator on his leg and we have not rushed to remove it — the longer the better, and the better the result. So, as we wait for the healing of the hand and the elbow, there is still no hurry. Not forgetting that Robert suffered injuries to two of the three nerves [in his right arm], and had severs of the tendons and muscles, but the feeling has come back to the fingertips. The muscles have been inactive for months and so need to recover tone and strength, but the big question – if he can drive in F1 again – has gone.”
With the Lotus Renault team's deadline for confirmation of Kubica's likely fitness looming in a matter of weeks, Ceccarelli's announcement was of great encouragement to Kubica's manager, Daniele Morelli, who has always claimed that his charge could expect to return to the fray in 2012.
“We are not able to predict a precise date because it is nature taking its course, but we are optimistic, very optimistic, and I do not think a delay of a couple of weeks can affect the plans," the Italian noted, “One thing is certain — he is coming back. The only problem now is muscular.”
Renault team boss Eric Boullier has claimed that delaying the decision on drivers for next season runs the risk of harming the squad's prospects for 2012, but it is clear that Kubica remains a key consideration as it looks to improve on what is becoming a disappointing 2011 campaign. After starting brightly, with strong testing performances and a brace of podium finishes in the opening two rounds, results have tailed off, leading to the sacking of Nick Heidfeld and promotion of Bruno Senna to the race team alongside Vitaly Petrov.
The rate of Kubica's recovery, however, is running hand-in-hand with questions over the future ownership of both the squad and principal sponsor Group Lotus. Current team owner Genii Capital - via the acquisition of Lotus - and the French government are both being linked to the team, with the former thought to benefit Petrov's chances of remaining on board, and the latter expected to play into the hands of new GP2 Series champion Romain Grosjean, who also happens to be managed by Boullier. Senna, meanwhile, remains a draw for sponsors - as was proven by an influx following his stepping up from reserve - but the Brazilian's role may be the last to be fixed once Kubica's decision is known.