Heidfeld handed test chance
Lotus Renault considering options for Kubica's replacement
Last Updated: 09/02/11 10:19pm
Free agent: Heidfeld is a veteran of 172 grands prix since 2000
Nick Heidfeld will get the opportunity to audition for the role of Robert Kubica's replacement at Lotus Renault after the team confirmed the German will drive for them during this week's four-day test at Jerez in Spain, which starts on Thursday.
Heidfeld, who raced for Sauber towards the end of last season, had been seen as one of the favourites to replace Kubica, who is beginning a lengthy rehabilitation after being seriously injured in a crash on the Ronde di Andora rally on Sunday.
Renault team owner Gerard Lopez had hinted earlier on Wednesday that Heidfeld or former Force India driver Vitantonio Liuzzi would drive for the team at Jerez, and 33-year-old Heidfeld has been given the nod to drive the R31 on Saturday and Sunday.
"Lotus Renault GP has revised its driver line-up for this week's test session in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain," read a statement from Lotus Renault.
"Vitaly Petrov will drive the R31 on Thursday and Friday, as originally scheduled. For Saturday and Sunday, the team will give mileage to Bruno Senna and will also evaluate Nick Heidfeld, who is a potential replacement for Robert Kubica as a race driver.
"The exact running order for the weekend will be confirmed on Friday evening."
Senna, who along with Romain Grosjean is one of Lotus Renault's test drivers for the coming campaign, is seen as another possible replacement for Kubica, but the team are understood to be keen to move for an experienced driver to partner Petrov.
The Russian and Senna competed in Formula One for the first time last season, with the Brazilian enduring a particularly tough time at the struggling Hispania team.
Heidfeld, on the other hand, has been in the sport since racing for Prost in 2000, going on to have spells with Sauber, Jordan, Williams and BMW Sauber and racking up 172 starts.
Lotus Renault believe Petrov has plenty of potential, but his lack of development experience means Heidfeld would be a major asset to the squad, particularly as the R31 appears to be a competitive proposition, with Kubica topping the testing times with the new car in Valencia last week.
But Kubica is likely to miss the whole of the 2011 season after partially severing his right hand and suffering breaks to his elbow, shoulder and leg in his accident.
He has since undergone a seven-hour operation to re-attach his partially severed hand and was kept in an induced coma following the procedure.
The surgery to repair Kubica's hand has been hailed a success by specialist Igor Rossello.
"The operation was perfectly successful," he told Sky Italia.
"It's a great result because the operation was long and very complex."
Kubica, who took his only F1 win to date in Canada in 2008, will undergo further surgery on his leg and shoulder on Friday.
"The phase of the final surgery operations is beginning: the double operation to foot and shoulder is planned for Friday morning, while the course of surgeries will end next week, said Giorgio Barabino, head of intensive care at the Santa Corona hospital.
"The driver's right hand has completely stabilised. Now the delicate recovery of the functionalities begins."