The Lotus Renault GP team has revealed that it is prepared to wait a little longer to see if star driver Robert Kubica can prove that he is fit enough to return to the F1 arena in 2012
The Pole had originally been told that he had until the middle of the month to convince team principal Eric Boullier that he had recovered sufficiently from injuries sustained in a rally accident last February, but that deadline has now been extended by at least another couple of weeks to allow Kubica time to test himself in a simulator.
The former Canadian Grand Prix racewinner had been setting impressive times in pre-season testing with the radically-designed R31 when he suffered serious injuries to his right arm and leg after crashing during the Ronde di Andora rally in Italy. He was lucky to escape with his life after a section of guard rail penetrated the cockpit of his car, but faced several major operations and a lengthy period of recuperation before he could even think about climbing back into an F1 cockpit.
Despite the uncertainty over Kubica's fitness, however, Boullier insists that he wants to give the Pole every chance to be a part of the Lotus Renault line-up in 2012, despite having alternatives queuing at his door.
"The new deadline is the end of October - and maybe even longer," he told Germany's motorsport-total.com, "It seems that [the deadline is always moving] but, if Robert can go back to F1, then I want him to drive for us, so I have to give him a chance. We will be flexible to the point where we cannot."
Boullier admitted, however, that the deadline could not be extended indefinitely, as it was not in the interest of the team to keep procrastinating. With Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov currently in its cars, and the likes of Romain Grosjean and, more recently, Rubens Barrichello, being linked to the Enstone squad, the Frenchman knows that he needs to make a decision before too long.
"I will not act against the interests of the team," he promised, "If I see that something is going wrong with next year's driver line-up, we must make a decision. However,
I spoke recently with [Kubica's manager] Daniele Morelli and they are very confident that Robert will return, which is good to hear."
Petrov, Senna and Grosjean are all hopeful of filling the one seat that may remain alongside Kubica, should he return, with the current line-up able to bring backing from Russia and Brazil respectively, but Barrichello's name is a surprise inclusion in the mix. The veteran is currently struggling to improve the Williams team, and may find himself ousted for younger talent, but refuses to admit that his time in F1 is at an end
"Whatever it takes, wherever it is, I want to be racing next year," he told AFP prior to last weekend,s Korean Grand Prix, "I am talking to the whole paddock and the situation here is no different, they know what I would like to have next year - and the only thing I would like to have next year is a competitive car."
Barrichello is currently the most experienced F1 pilot of all time, having made his debut with the Jordan team in 1993, and has 319 starts to his name. His eleven race wins came largely with Ferrari, before he enjoyed a swansong season with Brawn GP in 2009, winning two grands prix as team-mate Jenson Button headed to the world title.