With Renaultâ€™s big announcement, it has put an end to the rumor mill that had Polish driver Robert Kubica placed at just about every other team in the paddock. Renault must be elated with the news and to be honest, I am too. I am labeling Renault as my most surprising team of 2010 so far and it is without doubt the most important signing they have made since Fernando Alonso.
There was a lot of speculation as to where Kubica would end up and to that point, I had concerns that he would decide to leave Renault even prior to the start of this year if he was not happy with the new ownership structure. My concerns were parlayed as the new owners seemed to find sponsors, motivation and a core team that has seen Renault take the fight to Mercedes GP this year.
Perhaps, now that we have confirmation of Kubicaâ€™s employment until 2012, the bigger question may be Vitaly Petrov. The pressure is surely on as Renault is looking for a second driver to stay in touch with Kubica. Their goal to sign Kubica is finished but I sense the team isnâ€™t stopping there. Petrovâ€™s money, or pay-to-drive scenario, may be in doubt as some have suggested that a new spate of Russian dollars for 2011 may be hard to come by for the young driver.
If this is the case, one must assume that names such as Kovalainen, Glock or even Senna and Kobayashi may be of interest to the team. One cannot rule out a possible return for Kimi Raikkonen as well. The second seat is far from secure in my mind even though I think Petrov has done a good job of acclimating himself to F1. He has pace and seems to be in touch with the field when not experiencing mechanical failure et. al.
Who should be the second driver at Renault? Could Glock benefit from a more seasoned driver like Timo Glock or Heikki Kovalainen? The team made no bones about developing the entire system around Kubica and perhaps with that in mind, Petrov is a good number two driver for future development but I suspect if he stays, the team would like to see some cash from the Russian to offset the salary expense that Kubica must surely have made.
Oh…and it’s not lost on me that Kubica’s contract is crafted to expire the same time as Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.