While the irony may be lost on some, whispers are already beginning to suggest that Kimi Raikkonen, who abandoned F1 for rallying, may be at the top of the list of potential replacements for the injured Robert Kubica.

The Pole was indulging his love of rallying when he crashed heavily in Sunday's Ronda di Andora event in Italy, suffering potentially career-ending injuries to his right hand, arm and leg. Although initial prognoses following seven hours of surgery are more promising, with the hand apparently saved from possible amputation, it is unlikely that Kubica will be able to race this season, ending hopes that he may return to the top of the podium with the promising R31.

While Lotus Renault has myriad options on its substitutes bench - headed by former Renault pilot Romain Grosjean and erstwhile HRT driver Bruno Senna - it may decide that none are suitable replacements for the experienced Kubica, particularly with Vitaly Petrov's single year in the top flight behind the wheel of the second entry. Instead, there are several veterans without confirmed seats for 2011, including Nick Heidfeld and Pedro de la Rosa, who both completed part seasons last year and supplemented their track time with test outings for Pirelli.

There is one other name being bandied about, however, and it has already been linked to a possible Renault role in both 2010 and 2011. Kimi Raikkonen's second season in the World Rally Championship was briefly cast into doubt before Petrov was confirmed as Kubica's team-mate, with the Finn apparently considering a return to F1. However, amid denials and criticism on both sides, the 2007 world champion inked a deal to contest ten of this year's 13 WRC rounds, with an option to add the remaining three to his Citroen campaign.

As respected F1 scribe Adam Cooper points out, however, the 'difference is that the team didn't need him then'. Now, the Finn has the chance to contest a full season, including the remaining two group tests in Jerez and Barcelona, and at the wheel of the car that topped the times, in Kubica's hands, on the final day of running in Valencia. He is already known to the man who appears to be pulling then strings at Enstone these days, Group Lotus chief Dany Bahar, having worked with him at Ferrari, and would provide Bernie Ecclestone with a sixth world champion on the grid, joining Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.

Should Lotus Renault go with one of the drivers already on its roster, Senna looks the most likely to get the nod, having raced F1 more recently than Grosjean. The Frenchman has already signed a GP2 deal with DAMS having won last year's AutoGP title, and helped with Pirelli's development work in the latter stages of 2010, but the added allure of seeing the famous Senna helmet colours in a black-and-gold 'Lotus' may ultimately prove too tempting - for the marketing men at least....



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