Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Who will drive at Renault with Kubica?

With the confirmation that Eric Boullier will be Renault's new team principal, who can we expect to be the 2nd driver and test driver? Boullier has strong ties with Renault's new co-owner Gerard Lopez, having headed Lopez's Gravity Sport Management company since the end of last year. Boullier has publicly announced that the team wants a 2nd driver to be able to challenge Robert Kubica and score regularly throughout 2010 and that drivers that are a part of Gravity Sport will not get special consideration. Well, that is yet to be seen.

Even with this proclamation, I think we can expect at least one of the Gravity drivers in a test driver role. Otherwise, what is the point of being affiliated with a management company that now is part owner of a F1 team. My guess is that it will be Jerome D'Ambrosio given that he was a part of Renault Driver Development program and has a French racing pedigree. Moreover, since the driver market for experience veterans is opened up and they are looking for someone to challenge Kubica, a young driver as tester and someone who knows the F1 ropes as a racer makes sense. So, who does that leave for Renault to choose as their racing driver?

Provided that Nick Heidfeld does indeed get dropped by Sauber, which seems all but confirmed, he might be a good pairing. He is experienced, has worked with Kubica before and did outscore him in 2009.

Fisichella and De la Rosa have both been linked to Sauber, but whether they have the speed to challenge Kubica is a mystery. Not to mention that a Ferrari loan to Renault does not seem likely and that de la Rosa for all his abilities, I am not sure that Renault is looking for increased aid on the car development side.

Christian Klien is always an option unless Sauber is keen to keep him if they go with Fisichella or de la Rosa as short term fixes and Klien can further hone his skills under someone like de la Rosa.

However, for me an interesting possibility now that there is different management at Renault is Sebastien Bourdais. Flavio Briatore and Bourdais did not have the best of relationships and now that factor is removed from the equation. Bourdais's racing credentials are good, has speed, has F1 experience, has not been far removed from F1 and is French. Not to mention, he did not get a fair opportunity with Toro Rosso. Bourdais is not a name being mentioned at the moment, but I think this would be a tailor-made situation for him.

So for me, my driver line up for Renault would be Kubica, Bourdias and D'Ambrosio.

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