Renault has made a decision on whether to allow Kubica to feature in a test. This is a clear sign that the team are seriously considering the Polish driver for an F1 return in 2018.
Kubica will feature in the second day of the two-day test, which begins on the Tuesday after the Hungaroring event.
Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul told Autosporta that a full assessment on what role Kubica could play was the rationale behind the decision.
“The first two days of testing allowed both Robert and ourselves to gather a great amount of information,”
“The upcoming session with the R.S.17 at the Hungaroring will allow us all to obtain detailed and precise data in a current car and representative conditions.
“After this test, we will carefully analyse the collected information to determine in what conditions it would be possible for Robert to return to competition in the upcoming years.”
Several complexities exist, some of which support the idea that this is a genuine step towards Kubica’s return. FIA regulations insist that two of the four in-season test days are completed by ‘novice’ drivers–those who have competed in no more than two grands prix. Kubica has 76 races under his belt, which means he qualifies as a ‘non-rookie’ driver. This means his run out will be at the expense of either Jolyon Palmer or Nico Hulkenberg.
It becomes more complicated still. With Renault having run Hulkenberg for one day in Bahrain, they only have one day remaining for a race driver. They could have featured Kubica in a totally separate acclimatisation test that is allowed in the rules if a team elects to substitute a driver. Kubica qualifies because he has been absent from F1 for more than two years. However, he would have to take part on a track that does not host an F1 race, not a terrible situation if you consider the impressive buffet of venues that have been abandoned–the least distinguished part of Bernie’s legacy.
The problem is still not fully resolved, lingering like the smoke from the exhaust of a 1986 Volkswagen Passat, FIA bureaucracy remains.
Should the test go ahead and the team decide in the end that Kubica is not ready to compete, then the rule would dictate Renault losing one of its pre-season test days for 2018. So there you have it, the decision to include Kubica is a substantial one; Hulkenberg or Palmer will get the boot on test day, and the popular Pole will head out with DAMS Formula 2 driver Nicholas Latifi—who occupies the seat for the first day of testing.
Kubica is back in the fold, on the periphery, but there nonetheless.