Robert Kubica could still be in line to become Fernando Alonso's team-mate at Ferrari, despite the setback of a second leg injury in twelve months.
The Pole has long been admired by the Scuderia, thanks to his F1 performances for both BMW and Renault, but had his whole grand prix career thrown into doubt by an accident on the Ronde di Andora almost a year ago, which left him with life-threatening injuries.
Although he has since made a good recovery from the five bouts of surgery to correct the damage to his right arm, leg and hand, Kubica's return to the cockpit continues to be delayed - and suffered a further setback when he fell on ice at his home earlier this month, re-breaking his leg.
Despite that, and the fact that he may still be months away from being fit enough to even take control of an F1 simulator, Ferrari is reportedly still keen to secure his services. With Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean landing the race seats at Lotus F1 (nee Renault), Kubica is effectively a free agent - Jerome d'Ambrosio was last week officially confirmed as the Enstone team's reserve - and that could be enough for Maranello to step up its interest in securing his services.
According to reports in the Italian media, Jules Bianchi's deal to become the third driver at Force India - achieved with full Ferrari backing - will help make space to accommodate the Pole, despite other out-of-work drivers, such as Adrian Sutil and Vitaly Petrov having also been mentioned in connection with the test role at Maranello.
Should Kubica manage to return, first in the simulator and then, if that poses no problems, in an older-spec Ferrari, there is little doubt that the Scuderia sees him as a potential replacement for the under-fire Felipe Massa, who appears to be seeing out his contract with one final year in scarlet in 2012. Several Italian sources suggest that, despite his recent return to hospital, Kubica could be ready to sample the simulator in a couple of months, with a track outing pencilled in for either June or July, possibly at the wheel of a 2010 car fitted with Ferrari's version of the turbo-charged engine mandated for 2014.
The reports, however, contradict recent comments from Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali, who insists that there are no plans in place to run the Pole.
"For sure, Robert Kubica is a great driver that had a very severe injuries and, at the moment, he is still working very hard to try to go back to his normal living," he told journalists at the team's Wroom
media event, "So, before any kind of thinking or discussion of whatever could be, we need to wait and see. For sure, that kind of injury is taking a long time to recover so I can say we will wait and see if he is going to recover, but at the moment there is nothing in place."
Massa, meanwhile, has admitted that he needs to at least match Alonso to convince the Ferrari management that he deserves another contract extension.
Since coming close to depriving Lewis Hamilton of the 2008 world title, the Brazilian has failed to shine, a result, many believe, of the injuries he suffered in the horrific qualifying accident at the Hungaroring in 2009. Massa has finished sixth overall in the past two championships, a long way behind Alonso, drawing the ire of team president Luca di Montezemolo.
“I want to have a different year [to 2011], starting in a different manner, because I think if you have a good first part of the season, it impacts on how things will go into the future," he told Brazilian website TotalRace
, "I'm with a great team and a great team works things out well before.”