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Kubica gives Renault a vote of confidence
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Kubica gives Renault a vote of confidence
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Oct 2009   |  3:15 pm GMT  |  37 comments

Robert Kubica has brushed aside concerns over the Renault cheating scandal and has put his faith in the team, signing for next season.

As one of the most highly rated drivers in F1, he had a choice of seats for next year, but he has gone with Renault.

Photo: Darren Heath

Photo: Darren Heath


The Pole has been figuring out what would be his best option since BMW’s shock announcement of withdrawal from F1 in July. His manager, Daniele Morelli is a very smart man and has a good radar for F1 trends and developments.

A month or so ago, I thought Williams was Kubica’s favourite choice but I think he may have been put off lately by the uncertainty about what engine the team is using in 2010. The team seems to have cut off dialogue with Renault and is now considering Cosworth. This may be part of a wider commercial deal, possibly involving a large company and equity stakes in either Williams or Cosworth (or both) changing hands in the future.

The Renault announcement says that Kubica will drive from the 2010 season onwards. That is rather vague and my hunch is that he may have done a one-year deal with options, because there are quite a few things which could happen in the driver market for 2011 and he will want to be in a position to capitalise if, for example Felipe Massa isn’t the same driver as he was before his accident or if Raikkonen goes to McLaren for just one year and then retires.

I heard that he signed the deal on Saturday in Japan. It makes sense for both sides; Renault is keen to emerge from the cheating scandal and refresh its sporting brand. It has such a proud history in motor sport, this latest scandal sits oddly with the past.

But the team is trying to reposition itself with the Renault brand to the fore. Before it was Flavio Briatore’s team that happened to be called Renault. The car company makes no secret of the fact that it hired Flavio Briatore because it wanted to win quickly and he knew the road map for that, but the whole place became a personality cult and, unchecked, he went and exceeded his brief and landed the team in a major scandal.

Now the strategy is to blame the cheating on him and move forward proudly as Renault with a low-key team principal who does not overshadow the team and the badge and a top class driver, which is where Kubica comes in.

He will be welcomed with open arms by the engineers who were not happy with Briatore for losing him in 2006 to BMW. Kubica’s first test was in a Renault, as a prize for winning the World Series by Renault. He went well, but Briatore delayed, so Morelli parlayed the Renault test into a test and then race seat with Sauber and BMW. Word had got out about how fast Kubica had been in the Renault test and when Morelli showed Sauber and Mario Theissen the data, Kubica was signed without even testing the BMW Sauber car!

The Renault engineers have thought ever since what a great team Alonso and Kubica would have made. The pair are good friends.

“I share with Renault a strong winning mentality and feel comfortable with their friendly and open attitude, ” said Kubica. “I’m highly motivated and optimistic that together we can be at the front of the grid next year and hopefully fighting for the world title.”

Acting Renault team principal Bob Bell said, “We are very excited to have signed Robert with the Renault F1 Team starting next season. Ever since Robert made his Grand Prix debut in 2006, he has been on our radar as one of the most naturally talented drivers of his generation and he has delivered on that promise so it’s great to have secured him in one of our cars next season. Renault has high ambitions and hopes for the future of the team and we feel that Robert can play a big role in fulfilling them.”

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37 Comments
  1. F1 Kitteh says:

    James, any truth to the rumor that Kubica will take Kovalainen back to Renault as his teammate? Would like to see a nice guy get a proper crack at it.

    Is there is risk their ‘corporate’ rather than ‘renengade” strategy turns them into a Toyota ?

  2. Thom says:

    What’s the likelihood that Renault will sign Kovalainen in place of Grosjean for the second race seat James?

    1. James Allen says:

      Got to be a decent chance. They know he’s better than he’s been made to look at McLaren. Not that McLaren haven’t given him the best chance, I just think Hamilton has done his head in. Kubica would offer him more of a chance, as he has Heidfeld this year.

      1. Silverelise says:

        How do you mean “offer him more of a chance”? I would have thought Kubica would be looking after number 1!?

      2. Bartek Garbiak says:

        Heikki was on par with Hamilton when the car was bad. When the car improved Lewis has been able to squeeze more juice from it. I think the same goes for Kubica/Heidfeld pair or even about Button/Barichello. But definitely Kovalainen is better than Groesjan, Piquet or Di Grassi.

      3. whilyn says:

        Only Badoer is worse than Piquet. :D :D Shouldn’t have placed him in the comparisons list. :P

      4. Paul says:

        Is Grosjean completely out of the picture to partner Kubica next year? I would have thought that as the team are keen to go back to their French roots that Grosjean may have been a decent option given time.

        I’ve heard Heidfeld and Glock may also be considered for the second seat too

      5. Thomas says:

        James, why is it that you (and others) always seem to think Heikki is better than he looks at McLaren? He was at Renault at a time when the car was pretty bad, but Lewis is the only first-class teammate he’s been up against. Fisi is a nice number two and all, but he isn’t exactly world class…
        Coult it be that Kovalainen actually is as bad as he looks? Or is his driving style so different from Lewis’ that the car is the main problem?

        And while I’m asking you, what do you think of Heidfeld? In my book he is a lot better than he gets credit for, but I’m curious as to what experts like yourself think.

      6. jose says:

        It depends on the personal relationship the press has with the particular driver. They are humans after all. Because it is kovalainen, who seems to be a nice guy, they say, mclaren didn’t give him more of a chance. In 2007 alonso and hamilton were given an equal chance though. Did mclaren changed their racing filosofy, or is the press that sees things differently, depending on who they are judging.

      7. Mav says:

        “Done his head in”? I thought they were pretty good mates!

      8. Cliff says:

        Mav, they are friends, but from Friday to Sunday it becomes dog eat dog. I don’t think HK has become a bad ddriver, but when a driver sees his team-mate constantly beating him, it has to have an effect. In his interviews, he says “he could’nt go any faster”, that alone suggests that he needs a change. Just getting away from McLaren may just kick start his career. I for one hope so!

  3. Paige Michael-Shetley says:

    Any word on the second car, James? A couple of sources I’ve read indicate that they’re not impressed with what they’ve seen from Grosjean. Jonathan Noble said on his Twitter page over the weekend that he spotted Bob Bell having a long chat with Kovalainen, and I’ve read a couple of other sources indicating he’s a great possibility for the seat.

    Also, what’s the latest on Raikkonen? There was a story from Sport Bild in Germany saying that Raikkonen is demanding 25 million EUR from McLaren. The two seem to be having very interesting contract negotiations through the media looking at what appear to be some coded messages!

  4. Mario says:

    I personally did not think that Kubica at Renault would be the best way forward for him, but now as the contract is signed the best I can do is to wish him well. He seems to have positioned himself well for the future in case things went wrong again.
    He is one of my favourite drivers alongside LH and maybe KR and in addition we share same nationality, which fact isn’t playing a big part in why I rate him highly. It is rather his potential lurking about always ready to come to play waiting only for Robert to release his “I am struggling” approach to racing. If only someone close to him told him that racing and achieving his dreams does not have to be a constant uphill battle or requires so much fighting for it and can be done through having fun and pleasantly spent time he would improve immediately. I think his early, tough years imprinted some sort of pattern that reapetes itself in his present F1 days. I also think that Robert would benefit immensely form having someone he trusts by him who would build a new pattern of “I can do it easily”. A similar one to Lewis’ pattern which was built by his father.
    Anyway, no matter what happens I will watch RK closely and support him all the way.

    Thanks for the article James.

    1. Amritraj says:

      Nice analysis articulately done.

  5. john g says:

    agreed that my suspicion is also that kubi has signed a 1 year contract with options – i’m thinking he’s already eyeing a ferrari move in 2011 depending on massa’s performance next year. as you say, he’s friendly with alonso, and he’s also friendly with ferrari.

    as for kubica giving offering heikki a chance, as he has with heidfeld, he has outperformed kubica this year! ;) any thoughts as to where nick might go? looks more likely that barichello is headed williams way… i think that kubica would do heikki’s head in too tho to be honest, he’s just not that good, never good enough to be a no.1 driver in any half decent team at least.

    1. Glen says:

      I was thinking the best place for Heiedfeld would be the seat at Mclaren. He would be a good number two to Hamilton and would be quick and consistent enough to pick up points – and he is German. The now simpler enviroment at Renault may suit Raikkonen.

  6. Williams4Ever says:

    I am sure Alonso had some hand in Renault picking Kubica as his successor and Kubica picking Renault over other team say a Toyota/Williams.

    As it has already been written, Kubica/Heikki would be the right pairing to take the French outfit forward, if indeed they have long term commitment to F1

  7. Bartek Garbiak says:

    I wonder if Renault will keep their method of favoring one driver. If so then Kubica will be the first one to receive the updates, however it might be wise to get someone more experienced to help setup things.

  8. leespurs76 says:

    Hi James, who do you see as getting the second seat next year Renault??? Other sites seem to be pushing either Heikki, Sutil, Glock or Heidfield…
    Given that heidfield has been Kubica’s team mate for the past 2 or 3 seasons, do you think he’s the favourite???

  9. drums says:

    Renault as a team has behaved along and managed the crashgate rather well IMO. One cannot honestly blame the racing team or the brand as a whole because of a maneover of which the principal and the main engineer were the instigators. Not forgetting that the team fired both of them inmediately.

    Renault, on the other hand, is not only supporting a F1 team in F1, but also many “minor” racing Series from which pilots, public and Sport are benefiting greatly along recent car racing history.

    Fairness should not be mixed with animosity against “continental” teams. Renault has been, and is, a big big big good actor in car Sports.

    Regards,
    Drums

  10. DK says:

    Kubica is a great driver and the one that Lewis tips to be his main rival in the future so he must be good. Lets hope Renault give him a great car and he can really show how good he is. Kovi is a nice chap but will only ever be a number 2 driver. Lewis is way to strong for him and so to will Kubica.

  11. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    Seems Kimi has been on the vodka a little too much. How could he possibly think McLaren could justify paying him EUR 25m?
    As great as he is, his stock is a little unsure because no one knows how motivated he really is. Taking this into account and the fact that Ron/Martin are paying Hamilton considerably less – this seems crazy.

    Have the Robertsons become become badly accustomed? They are going to price Kimi out of the market if they are not careful. Kimi must go to a top team in order to raise his stock or leave F1 on a high, and for that he must in effect subsidise his drive with a pay cut.

    He will not earn EUR 25m rallying, nor is he likely to get offered anywhere near this figure by another team. Even the fruit loops ate Toyota who paid Ralph S $18m per season would surely not look at this figure under the current climate.

  12. Werewolf says:

    Renault will be keen to replace Alonso with another driver who can offer leadership, which Kubica seems capable of doing.

    1. jose says:

      We have to wait. As we can see this year with button, when the pressure builds up. A fast driver with no pressure, a second class when the going gets tough.

  13. Curro says:

    Spot on post James i think. Everything fits for all parts involved. I bet Di Grassi for the second seat, as F1 these days is a kleenex business: disposable drivers come and go until the next Lewis arrive. Sad.

    1. jose says:

      I wouldn’t say sad. It is more sad to see driver driving arround, that have no business being there.
      A driver like lewis comes once in a blue moon, and it is difficult to see. Sometimes the driver comes as a champion of gp2, sometimes comes straight from formula renault.
      So let’s keep trying to find the next lewis, and discard the ones that don’t cut it.

  14. Jonathan Chan says:

    What Intrigues me is the lack of success from Renaults driver development program. There was Heikki, Nelson and Roman, drivers which by all measures should have achieved more based on their racing pedigree in other catagories. After all Nelson was being touted as the next big challenger to Lewis Hamilton based on their dual in Gp2 [According to Flavio]. It didn’t happen, in fact it’s been a very expensive exercise in developing second rate drivers.

    However Kubica is a good signing for Renault, but as James stated the details of the contract are somewhat vague, with good reason. Robert will be assessing how Renault will progress next year in relation to the cars competitiveness [Can they overcome a clear downward trend?] and ofcourse his position within the team and ‘if’ he can become a vocal leader that Renault require or a mere Shut up and drive figure. Plus theres an oppurtunity at Ferrari in 2011 should Massas return not prove to be as competitive as he was prior to his injury.

    All in all the 2010 season is shaping up to be a very exciting prospect. With many seats still to be confirmed, old rivarlys to be renewed, points to proven and a couple of new teams in the mix. Next year is promosing to be the most unpredictable and intense season in F1 history.

    1. Neil Williams says:

      I would be concerned with any young driver programme where the manager of each of them was Mr Flav! Another situation the Renault board should not have allowed to happen. A team growing up with Flav’s ‘style’ and with driver supplied by his management company. Not only was he earning his team principles salary but 20% of the salary being paid by Renault to the drivers. The nightmare scenario of what actually happened with ‘crash-gate’ is always likely happen when someone has that amount of influence.

      “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton, 1870)

  15. PaulL says:

    Firstly, I really like Kubica, but is he actually top class?

    It looks like he’s going to get beaten by Heidfeld for the 2 time in 3 years..

    1. zadrav says:

      Yes, he is. There’s lot of doubts about real Kubica ability over past few months, but I think Bartek Garbiak in his reply took a good point about this issue. Thus, Heidfeld is in my humble opinion, probably most underrated driver on the grid – I would say he’s much better than Weber, Barichello, Trulli and even edging Massa and Rosberg, maybe not in raw speed but in race pace for sure. Actually, nobody of his former team mates really dominates him, even Kimi doesn’t. He is fast, reliable, has constant pace throughout the season. Unfortunately, he lacks certain “factor X” which makes difference between excellent driver and champion. Kubica has it.

    2. jose says:

      we don’t know yet. To tell you the truth, i doubt it.
      Very rarely there are more than two first class drivers in any era. We have three, lewis, alonso, and vettel. We would be too lucky if we had more than these three.

      1. Tom says:

        I think that Vettel is SOMTIMES fast but he is hot headded. He cannot withstand the pressure, co many mistakes this year… Kubica’s first season- he wasn’t as fast as Haidfeld is a very good driver but Kubica lapped him by far. He was faster than Hei in 2008 by far when he got a good car (but not the fastest on the grid). Take look at this year. He is regurally faster than Hei on every qualific unless he has a engine problem, damaged front wing, red/yellow flag. If Hei. goes to Mclaren and he will be at least close to Lewis in racing f1 car i would say Kubica is faster than Lewis… Only time will tell…

  16. John says:

    James

    I was watching the Channel 10 news in Melbourne Australia – and they said that Red Bull was chasing Kimi, and would bump Mark Webber (even though he is under contract).

    Have you heard this anywhere from your sources? I have searched everywhere online…but havn’t been able to find any info???

    John

    1. James Allen says:

      It seems to have started in the last couple of days after Webber had another poor weekend. Not sure how much there is to it.

      1. Peter says:

        I think Red Bull confirmed the negotiations for Sport Bild (German sports paper).

      2. James says:

        Probably not a lot, I’ve read that it is actually more to do with getting sponsership from Red Bull (the drinks company) rather than driving for the team.

    2. jose says:

      Why is toyota having so many problems finding a first class driver?
      They made very poor choices, at the beggining. Understandable, because they didn’t have curriculum in f1. But now, with the good performance they are having. What is going on.
      Trully and glock did some decent results this season, and they are not lewis. I imagine we all agree on this one.
      I hope kimi can be the one that gives the japanese team a chance to show their potential. I think if they stay in 2010, they have proved their loyalty to the sport. They deserve better.

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