Lotus Renault GP team boss Eric Boullier admits that GP2 title winner Romain Grosjean is likely to make a return to F1 next season if Robert Kubica isn't deemed fit to make a comeback from injury.
Grosjean clinched the GP2 title this season and is keen to make a return to the F1 grid having endured a difficult debut in the series back in 2009 when he was called up to replace Nelson Piquet Jr mid-season.
Boullier, who doubles as Grosjean's manager, had long championship his driver's potential for an F1 comeback and has now insisted that he sees the current Renault test and reserve driver as the ideal man to replace Kubica if he isn't able to return to racing for the 2012 season.
“He is part of the plan,” Boullier told the official F1 website. “We would like to have him in the car if Robert cannot come back. It is true that in 2009 he was not ready to be in Formula One and he clearly burnt himself. Even so his performance was quite good - he was only three-tenths off the pace of Fernando even though the car was not very good at that time, which makes it even more difficult for a young driver to step into F1. When he runs on Fridays he shows that he can deliver and gives good feedback. Clearly the guy has talent and everybody is convinced about that. It is my job to make him ready to step in. If Robert doesn;'t come back, he is definitely one at the top of the list.”
Boullier added that he was still waiting for Kubica to inform the team of whether he will be ready to make a comeback, with the team needing to put plans in place if the Pole needs to be replaced.
“The situation with Robert is easy,” he said. “We have a moral obligation to make sure that we give him a chance. To make a decision in October or November would not change anything in this team as the driver market is closed. I am waiting for him to tell me how he feels and I need a commitment from him. We also need to make a plan if it (his recovery) is not going as planned, as I don't want the team to be blamed. It was him who got me in trouble this year and now if he can't come back he has to tell us about it. He has to tell us, but we also must not be stupid. We need a plan.
“I am not the hostage of this situation anymore. My master plan already stands and I am not expecting anything. What I want is for him to commit to me and say 'Yes, I can do it' or 'No, I can't do it.' We are ready, the car is ready for a test and if it takes time then obviously it's because he is not ready. But then we reach something very emotional - the driver needs to convince himself that he can drive, both mentally and physically.”
Whoever drives for the team next season, Boullier insisted his aim was to have two 'big name drivers' by 2014, with the current priority being to build a quick car which help to attract top line drivers to the Enstone-based squad.
“To let you in on a bit of a secret, I don't want just one lead driver,” he said. “In the short term - in the next two to three years - I want two big names. I want to fight with the big names and to fight with Vettel and Webber, Hamilton and Button. So yes, I need two big names and the target is to have two big names by 2014 or even 2013. 2012 we know will be another year for rebuilding the team and so we are not in the position to attract big names now. And by the way, the driver market is closed anyway for 2012 so our priority is not to have a big name in the car but to have a fast car which can then be given to a big name to win races. We should do it in this order and not the other way around - even though I would agree that a big name would help to make the car better, definitely.”