Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul has revealed the team is seriously considering offering Robert Kubica the chance to make a sensational return to Formula 1 next season, but says it ‘has to make sense’ on all sides and not be influenced by ‘emotions’.

More than six years after his F1 career was seemingly ruined by arm injuries sustained in a rallying accident in 2011, Kubica made a return to action during a recent test in Hungary driving the current specification Renault RS17 and proceeded to impress with his quick lap times and consistency.

Coming after a handful of tests in older machinery earlier this year, the RS17 outing was seen as a chance for Kubica to prove he could handle a modern-day car with his compromised arm in the pursuit of a potential return in 2018.

Though Kubica gave relatively little away following his test over whether he was capable of racing in F1 full time again, Abiteboul admits the outing was ‘not a PR exercise’ and was a genuine gauge of his abilities.

“Frankly, we said we wanted to be extremely methodological and analytic about the way that we were approaching things with Robert. It’s not a PR exercise. It’s something we’re taking very seriously and we’re trying to leave emotion on the side. We don’t have all the answers that we potentially wanted to get from that test.

“In addition to that, Formula 1 is very restrictive in terms of the tests we can do. So in a perfect world, we want to do more of these type of tests to see if he can race again. It may or may not be possible. We will see.”

With sizeable crowds coming to see Kubica – a fan favourite during his time in F1 – to return to track, Abiteboul admits there are obvious benefits to welcoming him back into the fold, but he insists he won’t be swayed by the emotions associated with such a sensational comeback.

“It’s well-reported that Nico [Hulkenberg] has a multi-year contract, and Jo [Palmer] has a one-year contract, so obviously we have one driver to decide for next year. We also have the restriction that I was referring to on Robert, so we also need to be consistent on the timing for deciding on a second driver.

“The market is starting to sort of go with the different announcements of this week with Ferrari and McLaren, and I expect there will be some more announcements at some point. We cannot just be sitting on a rock and making our plans and not helping ourselves. It has to follow the plans of all the drivers.

Blaming the lack of testing available for getting a truly accurate indication of Kubica’s fitness – such as driving in the rain and reacting to incidents -, Abiteboul says these all need to be taken into consideration as factors.

“The question with Robert as I said is that we have a restriction on our ability to test. Any addition to that testing in the regulations, private testing, one car, in controlled environment without rain, without first-lap action that you can always encoutner, all of that needs to be factored into the decision of pursuing or not pursuing.

“I don’t want to create speculation, and I don’t always want to put it that the team has some obligation to go further because there is an interest, a willingness from the public to see Robert back. We would all like Robert to be back, but it has to make sense.”


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