Renault Sport F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul has downplayed the prospects of Robert Kubica returning to the Enstone team, despite the Pole’s successful recent test outing at Valencia.
Kubica impressed the team with his form in the 2012 Lotus-Renault E20 in his first F1 outing since his rally accident in 2011.
Having also driven cars from other categories, he has now gone a long way to demonstrate that he can deal with the tight confines of a single-seater cockpit once again.
After the test, Kubica expressed his satisfaction at having run a grand orix distance, and stressed his desire to make a “proper comeback”.
With Jolyon Palmer not contracted for 2018, Renault has made no secret of the fact that it looking at other options, with a shopping list that inevitably starts with the likes of Fernando Alonso.
The fact that a seat is potentially up for grabs has led to suggestions that, if more tests show further signs of progress, Kubica could have a genuine shot at a return to the team.
However, Abiteboul stressed that such a scenario is not planned at the moment.
“I know that the sport is full of speculation and rumours and all these things,” he told Motorsport.com.
“But I think in this present case we need to be a little bit careful, because we’re talking about an individual that we all love, with a fantastic image, and who has suffered a very difficult situation from a personal perspective.
“So I think I would ask on this occasion everyone to be a little bit careful. Yes, we have done that test, but we don’t want to create expectations in anyone’s mind, including Robert himself.”
Asked if Kubica could eventually move into the frame for a 2018 seat if he proves himself with further outings – either with Renault or in other cars – Abiteboul conceded that it was not impossible.
“Look, we’ll have at some point to discuss about our future line-up, that’s public information. We have a long-term contract with Nico, and a contract for 2017, and all of 2017, with Jolyon.
“But at some point we will have to review options. If by then, Robert becomes an option, we can have a look. As we speak, he’s not on the list. He has many more things he has to accomplish so that he could be on the list.”
Abiteboul was keen to stress that the Valencia test was largely a favour to Kubica from a team that has maintained contact with him over the last six years.
“The fact of the matter is simple. You know that there is at Enstone a group of people composed of Bob Bell, Nick Chester, Alan Permane, all these people have known Robert as a driver, have worked with him, and over the years – including when Robert was completely outside of the radar – they have maintained contact with him.
“And that’s something that they always discussed, what if, as a dream he was capable of driving again in this type of circumstance? We had this circumstance, we had this opportunity.
“This was a one-off, It’s part of a process of recovery for Robert, where he’s going to assess his limits – his physical limits, and also maybe his mental limits, what he has the appetite for going through also in terms of challenges, in terms of difficulties, in terms of risk, for himself for his image.
“He’s also done F2, GP3, LMP2, Formula E, so he’s done a number things, and this was also part of the programme. But I don’t want to create an obligation on Renault or Robert that there is a next step.”