F1 Winter Break
Renault go for experience in super sub Nick Heidfeld
Renault go for experience in super sub Nick Heidfeld
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Feb 2011   |  10:34 pm GMT  |  126 comments

The Renault F1 team has been extensively restyled this season already with the arrival of Lotus and today it announced a forced change with Nick Heidfeld replacing his former team mate Robert Kubica. Although there had been speculation about the team looking at other options, it always looked likely that they would go for Heidfeld.

Heidfeld, a veteran of 172 Grands Prix without a victory, was out of work after opting to give up his secure testing contracts with Mercedes and Pirelli for a five races deal with Sauber at the end of last season. But the injuries incurred by Kubica in a rallying accident ten days ago mean that the Pole is likely to miss most if not all of the season. He had a third operation today to repair his broken elbow. Although no official time for his recovery has been given, specialists in hand surgery suggest the nerves and tendons in his right hand will require a year to heal.

“I would have liked to come back to Formula One in different circumstances, but I’m proud to have been given this chance,” said Heidfeld.

Meanwhile the team boss Eric Boullier has said that the decision needed to be taken quickly to avoid derailing what was looking like a promising season for the team. Experience was the watchword for him and his engineers with an aggressive new car to sort out and new Pirelli tyres to be understood. They might have opted for hunger in the form of Nico Hulkenberg, but have decided to play it safe with Heidfeld. He ran Kubica close in their days together at BMW Sauber and if the tyres suit his style of driving can be a very potent performer.

“The team has been through a very difficult couple of weeks and we had to react quickly,” said Boullier. “We gave Nick a chance in Jerez last week and he really impressed us. He’s quick, experienced and is very strong technically with his feedback and understanding of the car. We always said the priority was to have an experienced driver in the car and we feel he is the ideal man for the job.”

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It's a terrible shame for Robert that he is out for the season, but I wish Nick the best of luck and might even go down the bookies to put a fiver on him getting his first win in 2011. Because I think the Renault will be quick.


Not a bad bet that, I am still hurting £100 on the Steelers not winning by 4 points at the Superbowl, let us know the odds, if they are 20 to 1 I might have a fiver too, try and lick my wounds. Glad for Nick though, but thinking of it, had Schumi not come back, maybe Mercedes would have opted for Kubica last year and not Nick as was assumed?


It would have been too late. Jenson left at the last moment and Nico was the anointed German for the silver arrows. With BMW gone, Renault was the best seat available and Robert jumped there first. It could be questioned why he didn't go after the second McLaren seat, except if he didn't want to be a number two driver, in in effect he would have been to Hamilton unless he turned out quicker (harder to do than what Senna did to Prost).

Nick took a bet on Mercedes as Jenson hadn't re-signed with the Championship winning team - it was a small chance, and for a short moment, with Jenson leaving, he had a drive in the top team. Then Michael took it, and then the car turned out to be average.


Here's your chance, Nick. Good luck!


Was always going to be Nick, wasnt it? Hope he has a stellar season and sticks around for a while now. Heidfeld never deserved to be out of F1.


By 'running close to Kubica' do you mean he beat him 2 seasons out of three? Yes, he did.


Why is a guy who beat Webber, Raikonen and Kubica 2/3 is considered a replacement. Is charisma everything in life ?


That's right and let's not forget bmw's tactical decision to rob him of Kubica's win in 08. We wish Kubica well but expect Nick to shine this year in what appears to be a half decent car.


They couldn't rob him of a victory, which he didn't really deserve, and that was only Robert's own making. That's my point of view. And I am really curious how 'quick Nick' will perform this season, because I have a hunch that its decisive year for him. We will finally see if he deserves his nickname.


If Heidfeld were to win in Canada 2008 that would be only by chance and in fact it would be very unfair after what Robert has done during the qualifications, during the race, and the whole season. Heidfeld was very lucky there to get so close to wining, with how the race evolved, with his one stop strategy and after yet another very poor quali. And yet he couldn't come to terms with Robert winning the race. And told fairy tales about letting Robert throught. I am sorry to remind you that.


Great choice, just as I was hoping. Being a Kubica fan I am really supporting Nick this season and I believe this Renault can provide the win that has so far alluded him...just no loose wheels!


in sport like in life - expect unexpected, good luck for Nick and may Robert heel his wounds quickly and fully.


Put £2.50 on Heidfeld as champion at 65/1 after the test. Heidfeld/LRGP to emulate Button/Brawn?


Nick needs more than a Brawn to be world champion. I realy doubt he will take podiums excepting on caothic races.


was just thinking the same thing, he's currently 33/1 might be worth a sneaky fiver . . .kubica was already going to be my joker as such at 20/1


James, Nick has competed in 172 Grands Prix's with out a win, how has he gained the tag "quick nick"?


Well, in those grand prix, the driver in the other team car won exactly once. And in that race, Heidfeld could have easily won as well. You can't win in F1 unless you have a car that's capable.


I can’t say I’m a big fan of using a nickname just because it rhymes and that was even before I played as flanker in my rugby team. You make one mistake and . . .


He may not have run a race, but I'll bet he could beat any of us in a straight race.


Quick Nick dates back at least till 1997. A company which did bus travels named 'Quick Nick' and they had to change because Heidfeld could claim that he had his nick before. A nick name seems to have the same protected rights as your real name.

German page (Namensschutz = name protection):


1997 would german formula 3 champion i think. And he had the nickname allready.

I was puzzled when Kimi got the seat for McLaren in 2002 because Quick Nick was faster than Kimi in the Sauber 2001.


Yup, I was also disappointed to see Heidfeld miss out on the McLaren seat to Raikkonen. My only thoughts were that McLaren wanted to replace their retired Flying Finn with the new, young Flying Finn.


watch some of those races, youll get it then


It's a nickname he had since the days he competed with Juan Montoya on the European F3000 Championship... when he acquired it i don't know, but despite the fact that he doesn't own an F1 victory to his name, personally i consider him to be much more consistent and fast tan many F1 drivers of recent times...


He has beaten most of his teammates, hasnt he? Including Kimi and Kubica 2/3..


Massa too in 2002 at sauber


Have any of the cars hes driven won a race? (bar canada 2008 when he was leading and moved over for kubica)

The same could have been said avout button and now hes wdc


With an extremely dominant car like Brawn every driver could become WDC only beeing faster than his teammate, beeing Jenson, Nick, or Nakajima. If in 172 GPs you haven't shown your potential, then you don't have potential to be more than one more driver.


If the Brawn car was "extremely dominant" then they wouldn't have been out-raced in China '09, out-qualified in Bahrain '09 by Red Bull and Barrichello would have been runaway second in the championship.

Really, it's hard to understand where this perception of "extremely dominant" comes from. RB was right there at the start and in fact, ahead for the latter half of the season.


What I dont get is, he has outscored Kubica 2 of the 3 seasons they had together, he beat massa in sauber... and still nobody rates him, and everybody rates kubica. That, I dont get.


Not true. Rubens had bucket loads more experience yet he struggled compared to Button. And Button came close to losing the title as his nerves began to fray.


I understand your question and have wondered that too. And have come to the conclusion that the tag 'quick nick' has come about only because his name is nick, and not for his speed. just like when we say relax max, or settle grettle. I would have liked Raikonen in this car. now thats a quick driver. who gets the tag, flying fin....!!


I think it's a bit unfair to say he's not quick, remember that even Buemi or Petrov would make us look pedestrian in a kart.

Quick Nick was a nickname from the earlier stages of his career, where Heidfeld was the next big thing and the name on everyone's lips. He produced some extremely dominant performances in F3000 back then and was the class of the field.


It rhymes.


Yeah! I also thought that Verstappens tag of Joss 'the boss' was false advertising and he had that because it rhymed. I think it goes back to his karting days though.

Anyway, good choice to have Nick. In times of limited testing you want an experienced hand that will be quick out of the box.


Well, I wouldn't call it a replacement. Heidfeld is merely a stand-in, but still I am very happy to see him in a car capable of chasing podiums and even wins.


Quick Nick is back in business, congratulations to him.


Good luck to Nick- he was desperately unlucky to get elbowed out of a seat by Schuey last season.


Well, good for him. I would like to see some aggression from him this season, though. How many more chances will he get? Turns out that getting those few races last year was a good move after all. Good luck to him.


I really hope Nick gets that win that has eluded him. I am happy he is back on the grid!


Well done Nick. Go Lotus!


You mean Renault?


Although no official time for his recovery has been given, specialists in hand surgery suggest the nerves and tendons in his right hand will require a year to heal.

I know a lot about injuries to tendons (and other tissues) in the hand and arm as I have experience of them. Different injuries to Robert, but related nonetheless. My injuries will be with me for life. I do remedial exercises every week to keep me pain free. There are several different areas to address:

1) Range of movement
2) Nervous system
3) Tendon strength
4) Muscle strength

After fixing the physical damage you need to regain the range of movement. To do this you or may not (depending on the injuries) need to address problems with the nervous system causing pain because the nerves are in the wrong place (moved inside the limb) and/or are too short (exercises to gently stretch them). These exercises CANNOT be rushed. They take time. They are uncomfortable.

Once you have the range of movement and nervous issues sorted you can move to address whether the tendons are strong enough.

After that you can finally start to rebuild muscle strength while retaining the range of movement and other benefits you already have.

I can assure you that given the problems Robert has had if he manages to race again this year he will have put in a stellar effort. And that is regardless of how fit everyone thinks he is. I got ill in my late 20s (and was fit at the time) with much less severe injuries and it took me years to recover my strength and fitness. No exaggeration. Sure I didn't have the support systems Robert has, but some of these things just take time, nothing else can help. So as I said with Felippe Massa (I said a year on here and I was right) this will take time. If Robert is well advised he'll sit the entire season out and come back in 2012.


Thanks for your insights.


Totally agree. If only Robert returns next year - and if he is quick as ever - that's OK with me, I can wait so long. I hope he does return and in a good shape. Fingers crossed for him.

As for Nick - good luck. You were given another chance, don't waste it. (I am very curious how he will perform)


Very glad to see Renault did not waste their time with Liuzzi and de la Rosa, as neither have ever demonstrated the ability to extract much from a car.

This could turn into a Brawn-like year for Heidfeld if the Renault is able to win races and place regularly on the podium. It'd be nice to see him fight for the title this year, under these circumstances.


And Nick has the ability to extract much from a car? When did you see that??


The two years he scored more points than Kubica in the same machinery.


no way it can duplicate the brawn/button year, renault became the champions because of crying alonso symmond and briatore


Your wisdom is overwellming, what an incredible demostration of F1 knowledge, I'm amazed.


My point was that Nick might have the chance to pull a one-off year out of his hat, something (Ross) Brawn did with his own team in 2009.


If the new car is truly competitive it would certainly be a feel-good story to see Heidfeld rack up a couple of wins after such a long career.


With Lewis-McL, Seg-RBR and Fernando-SF I really doubt he will take a victory this year. He can be really pleased with a couple of podiums.


With the major Heidfeld story-line always gravitating back how many races he has run without a win, I think he would be really pleased with a victory about now.

In the end it will depend on the competitiveness of the car though...a bit of luck...and some competent driving.

Heck, even the superstars you mentioned saw their teammates take some victories last year; or in the case of Massa, would have without team orders.

I'll leave the prognosticating to such eminent sages such as yourself and simply enjoy watching the racing to see if a good guy finally gets his first win...or not.


Phew! what a relief - a sensible choice and a strong driver, capable of at least 4th place in the championship (rather like Rosberg) sooner or later.


Definitely the right thing for Renault to do - they need a strong lead driver this season and Senna or Petrov would not have been up to the job.


Nick is like a cat with 9 lives.

I quote the Godfather ...just when I thought I wa out, they pull me back in!

Go for it Nick - make the most of it. Register that win so you can drink beer out of your trophy each Octoberfest!


Congrats to Nick Heidfeld.

Really that was the only likely decision for Renault F1... I mean the car/team needs the lead and experience in feedback and development, and Nick was the only avaialble driver that ticked all boxes (including regular pace and points bagging habits).

It is very unfortunate that it this "last" opportunity for Nick in F1 (as I expect it may turn out to be), was at the cost of injury to one of my favourite driving tallents Robert Kubica.

I have a sneeking suspicion that the Nick and Renault R31 combo is going to push occasionally onto the podium steps this year. Just a Hunch. If Nick knows he's on last chance season in F1, he may just push a bit more for 'glory over points'. Lets hope so! JF


It would have been a real shame to see Nick pushed out of F1, he deserves another chance and has now got it. Don't want to see Group Lotus have any success due to their attitude toward the team that brought Lotus back to F1, but if Heidfeld can get his career back, Bra-Vo +++


Im making a bold prediction, but Robert will be racing in the Italian GP in September! He wont be able to walk or move 100% but he's one of the most driven and mentaly strongest drivers on the grid. He'll be in that car in September. Remember me.


I guess he will have to pass some kind of physical tests before going back to the races, won't he? I mean, I suppose that somehow he will have to proof that he is able to drive the car under the extreme conditions of a GP race.


Cockpit exit test is the only one he'll have to pass. There was no head injury involved.


Regardless of the optimism, I think is is unlikely that Kubica will return this year. But, if he does this is how I see things happening.

Nick, at the very least, will probably score points consistently and even make the occasional podium finish. Petrov will continue to struggle making it into Q3 and frequently crash. So if Robert manages to get back into the car this year, the logical decision would be to let Nick stay in and sideline Petrov.


That would depend! Not only on Robert's own ability but also on Heidfeld's. If Quick Nick is doing good and Renault is looking at good championship standings they would be crazy to switch that late in the season.


It was the only logical choice for Renault. I would class Nick as "steady Nick" as opposed to "quick Nick", he is consistent if un exciting. His last gasp in F1 to shine, its now or never for him. I agree it could be worth a small wager for an odd win this year.


Given that tyre management/preservation will be crucial to success this year, Heidfeld's elevation is one of the best possible outcomes to Lotus/Renault's racing misfortune with Kubica.

Heidfeld's race pace was best displayed in 2005 (when tyre changing was prohibited) in the Williams against Mark Webber. He would invariably qualify behind Webber, but have the superior pace over the duration of the race distance.

I've admired him since watching his debut in one of the worst cars ever seen on the grid: the 2000 Prost AP03.


The 1 year timeline for the nerves healing does not mean that his hand will be functional in 1 year.

3 years ago I dislocated my shoulder, and in the process stretched the nerves running into my arm, paralysing it. None of the nerves were torn, just trama'd a bit. Feeling/use of my hand began coming back within days, but it was still 7 months for all muscles to work properly, and for probably 2 years my hand felt numb like I'd been sitting on it.

If Kubica's nerves were severed and needed surgical repair, I can see him having general use of the hand in a year, but not the kind of use one would need to operate a F1 car competitively.

If he is ever able to return, the timetable is more likely 2-3 years.


Hi James,

Would you presume that Kubica's & Renault's insurance would cover both parties for loss of earnings due to Kubica's accident? Or would Renault still have to pay Kubica's salary, as well as Heidfeld's? If so, it'll be a pricey season I imagine!
Keep up the great writing.


Insurance should cover Kubica's replacement. Kubica will have his own insurance for loss of earnings etc


James I dont get it, why would Kubica need insurance if Renault are still going to pay him for the season?

Or, if Renault doesnt pay him, why would renault need insurance?


Glad Nick got it, never fully understood why he’s so underrated. I don’t think any of his fans are saying he’s at the Alonso/Vettel/Hamilton level, but he’s got quick one lap and race pace, can defend and is one of the best overtakers on the grid.

With the naming issue, when you look at the car from the side, I’m amazed that there is no Lotus branding on it at all. However, there is Lada branding, so from now on I plan on calling the cars Lada Renaults.


I still have a doubt. Is Nick the best choice because of his driving skills, or because of his (privileged) knowledge of the Pirelli Tyres?


I really hope LRGP delivers the goods and we will see Heidfeld get his first win. All the knockers love to point out he has never won, but honestly, how many races do you think Schumacher, Alonso or Vettel (insert favourite driver here) would get in those woeful cars? 0.


I can't understand that anybody, not being the medical in charge of Kubica, can give verdict of time of recovery. Who thought that, just after his last accident, that he would be back again at all??

Good luck Nick, eventhough I would have loved seeing Kimi back at the wheel


Would they really kick Heifeld out of the seat late in the season, if Kubica recovers by then, and assuming Nick is performing well ?

I'm a RK fan, but surely they will leave NH for the entire season if he does 60% of it or so? Would be interesting to see his contract.

Hope NH thrashes MS. Go son!


I think if Nick is still a contender for the WDC by Italy, you would maybe see Robert coming back to play a similar supporting role that Michael did for Eddie Irvine in late 1999. But I think Robert should not rush back and wait until he is fully recovered before leaping back into an F1 car.

I hope Nick does well, as I just put a fiver on him to finish in the Top 3 in the WDC this year! (28-1 has got to be worth a flutter)

If he does perform well, I then hope Mercedes make amends and come back for him for 2012.


"He ran Kubica close in their days together at BMW Sauber" - He more than ran him close, James. He scored more points and outqualified him over the 3 and a half years. The only area Kubica beat him was in race wins, and that's because Nick played the team game in Montreal '08. A more selfish driver would have taken the win - maybe that's what stopped the very good Heidfeld ever becoming great?


Well said


This. Again, well said.

Hopefully, Nick will rack up wins this year and prove that nice guys can finish first.


Thanks guys, we should start a campaign against all the lazy journos who write off Quick Nick as being nothing more than 'solid' or a 'journeyman', it really is incredibly lazy journalism to resort to such cliches. Andrew Benson and Joe Saward are at the top of the list! Fair play to Andrew Davies though, this article is spot on :


Best line has to be "Like Kubica, Vitaly has shown a desire to go off rallying, the only difference being that Vitaly likes to do it exclusively in F1 machinery" Quality!


Doesn't this prove that Renault aren't really first division?

I mean is that all they can come up with, what's the guy ever done? Answer NOTHING.


Ok Dale lets look at Nick Heidfeld's F1 career a bit more in-depth than simply writing him off as you have done.

2000: Despite being a rookie Outqualifies vastly more experienced team-mate Jean Alesi 9-8 and racks up better finishing position than the mercurial Frenchman - Prost are pointless but under today's scoring system outscores Alesi 10-3

2001: Not only Outqualifies highly rated team-mate Kimi Raikkonen 10-7 but outscores him 12-9, grabbing a brilliant podium in Brazil whilst the Finnish rookie spins off in the rain

2002: Destroys highly rated team-mate Felipe Massa 12-4 in qualifying , outscores him 7-4

2003: Outqualifies highly experienced

team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen 9-7, HHF outscores Heidfeld 13-6

2004: Obliterates massively rated team-mate Giorgio Pantano by outqualifying him 13-1 and getting a couple of points at Monaco in a truly awful car. Replacement Timo Glock is a far better match for Quick Nick yet he still outqualifies his fellow German 4-0 and outscores him 3-2

2005: In the 13 races Heidfeld competes in, he may get outqualified 8-5 during this period but he outscores highly rated team-mate Mark Webber 28-24, bagging 3 podiums - all in races where his team-mate drives very poorly in comparison. In Malaysia, Nick takes an excellent 3rd whilst Webber collides with Fisichella in a suicidal move, at Monaco Heidfeld takes a brilliant 2nd place including a beautiful pass on Alonso at the harbour chicane whilst Webber makes a hash of it, scrappily passing the spaniard only by skipping the chicane and at the nurburgring, Nick takes a fine pole and mature 2nd place whilst the aussie has a poor start and rashly takes out Montoya at the first corner in a rookie-like error.

2006: Outscores former world champion Jacques Villeneuve 13-7, qualifying is 6-6.

2006 - 2009: Outqualifies and outscores highly rated team-mate Robert Kubica 30-28 in qualifying and 150-137 in the races. During this period they take 8 podiums each with Kubica getting the sole win between them in Canada thanks to Heidfeld letting him through.

2010: Does 5 races at the end of the season alongside highly rated team-mate Kamui Kobayashi. He is outqualified 4-1 by the Japanese but scores 6 points over the 5 races, the same amount Pedro De La Rosa did over the previous 14.

So I have analysed Nick Heidfeld's F1 career in a bit more detail than you did Dale, and I think it's fair to say he has done a bit more than 'nothing' as you claimed. He has been team mates to Alesi, Raikkonen, Massa, Webber, Villeneuve and Kubica - all top class F1 drivers, and he beat all of them.

His only dud year in the sport was 2008, and even then he took some brilliant podiums - who could forget his glorious run to 2nd at Silverstone where he TWICE overtook 2 cars at once as he passed Alonso, Glock, Kovalainen and Raikkonen and was the only man not lapped by Hamilton.

Likewise at Spa that year when he took a terrific 2nd after overtaking Alonso, Bourdais, Kubica and Vettel in the last half a lap.

He might not have the charisma of Alonso or the swashbuckling style of Hamilton, but he's right up there with them in terms of talent. To write him off as having achieved 'NOTHING' is very lazy and cliched and shows a very poor knowledge of the sport and a tabloid style of writing.

Hang your head in shame, Dale.



You write: ''To write him off as having achieved ‘NOTHING’ is very lazy and cliched and shows a very poor knowledge of the sport and a tabloid style of writing''.


For info I have been an avid follower and supporter of F1 since the late 60's and pride myself on having an in depth knowledge of F1 since that time.

F1 to me is all about the special people who come every now and again, we currently have a few exceptional drivers competing at the same time and (in my opinion) Nick Heidfield is simply not one of them.

I can't recall (and I've seen them all) a single race he's been involved in which has stirred the blood, the same cannot be said of the likes of Hamiliton (to my eyes by far the most exciting and racy current driver), Alonso, Schumacher and Kubica to name a few of the current crop of drivers.

My opinion remains as I stated on the start of this thread, Heidfield is not top draw and never will be.


That's enough of that thanks. Let's move on.


Who would you have gone for?



James, as you'll know NOTHING in F1 is impossible and if Renault were really serious about being seen as one of the big boys they should have shown a little imagination, - for example why not go for Webber? If they really believe in their car this would have been possible as it may have suited both Webber, Redbull and Renault and not forgetting Ecclestone!

What they have done instead is show us that they are not one and are never likely to be (with the current setup) one of the real players in today's F1


I completely agree with you.


He beat Kubica for 2 seasons at BMW, Kimi in 2001 and Massa in 2002.


When a driver receives massive injuries like RK has suffered, they seldom get back to where they were before. For example, his broken elbow may never straighten again, the nerves that have been damaged may not respond as quickly.

When Robert recovers from his injuries, he's going to have to prove to himself and his team that he's up to driving an F1 car at the top level. Rushing back isn't going to be enough.


I'm glad Nick Heidfeld got the Lotus-Renault seat. He was really the only option for them. Raikkonen is a rally driver now, pure and simple. The same way as American single seater fans want Montoya to go back to Indycar and leave NASCAR behind, of course, we as Formula 1 fans want to see Raikkonen - one of the most naturally gifted racing drivers of the last decade - back in an F1 car, but he doesn't want to come back. My heart would have loved to have seen a Senna in a Lotus-Renault, but he is not experienced enough at this stage to take up this role. I have no doubt that we will see him back in F1 in the future, possibly in the Lotus-Renault. As for the others, Liuzzi would have been a bizarre choice as he was the most frustratingly inconsistent driver of 2010 and Hulkenberg basically fits into the Senna box.

However, in my mind Heidfeld is by no means getting the drive by exclusion. He is IMHO one of the most underrated drivers in F1. He has consistently outperformed his team-mates including against respected opposition. He scored more than Raikkonen and Massa at Sauber in 2001 and 2002 respectively and Kubica in two out of their 3 years together at BMW. He is fast, maybe not lightening quick, but he does seem to be good at developing a fundamentally good car viz-a-vis the Sauber Petronas cars and the BMWs. If people have question marks about his racing abilities, please remember the 2008 British Grand Prix where on route to 2nd place in the wet, he passed both Raikkonen and Kovalainen in one corner around the outside at Luffield!! He is not to date been a scintillating driver, but bar one season at BMW when they had a car that was occasionally capable of winning, he has never been in a car that was especially great. He is a driver comparable to Button or Webber IMHO, not quite at the very pinnacle - only Alonso and Hamilton of the drivers since the mid-90's to mid-00's-mark Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen are really at that level. However, he is quite capable of winning in the right car. Look what happened to those two the first time they were in cars capable of victory - Button won the world championship and Webber came painfully close! I'm not saying that Nick Heidfeld will win the WDC this year, but given the right equipment I have no doubt that he could win races.


On Kubica's injuries, I have thought a fair bit about whether I should or should not post on these because I am actually an Orthopaedic surgical trainee, so I have fair bit of experience of these kind of injuries through the work we do in Trauma Surgery. I think I should probably say a few things, not to be graphic or sensationalist, but to put a bit of realism in his injuries and their potential prognosis

Obviously, I cannot be too specific because I don’t have xrays to look at and a patient to examine. However from the photographs of Kubica at the time of the injury, what has been released to the media and what I have pieced together from the medical reports from the Orthopaedic surgeons in Italy, it seems he had an injuries to his right wrist and forearm, his right elbow and his right leg.

The right leg has not really been mentioned too much, which means either it was not serious enough to need an operation or it was dealt with at the 7-hour operation on the day of the accident and is now no longer the main issue standing in his way of his rehabilitation. The exact injury has not been mentioned as far as I know and only one photo I have been shown gives any suggestion of what it may have been so I don’t think it is right for me to speculate on this injury from that.

With regards to his right elbow/forearm/wrist/hand injury, I think you can probably deal with this as a one-r even though the injuries may be quite separate. From what the Italian doctors have said, he has bony, tendinous and nerve injuries. The bony injuries appear to be fractures of both the radius and ulna (forearm bones) which probably includes the fracture around his wrist, probably the end of the radius +/- ulna bone(s). The elbow injury maybe an injury to his ulna +/- radius bone at the upper end or to the end of the humerus bone or any combination of the above. With regards to fractures, provided the normal alignment of the bone can be restored and the bones held with the correct stability, provided infection is prevented and an appropriate rehabilitation programme is instituted, Kubica stands an excellent chance of good bony union. This will take between 3-6 months until the bone is approaching its pre-injury strength. Complications and delayed or even non-healing (we call it union) of the fractures can occur, but the Italian Orthopods seem pretty happy at this stage.

What I am most worried about is his tendon and more particularly his nerve injuries.

The main press statement from the surgeon stated he had both flexor and extensor tendon injuries in his right arm. These are tendons in the forearm which control wrist and finger movement. Flexor tendons bend the wrist and fingers towards the palm side and make a fist - they are obviously important with grip. Extensor generally do the opposite function. Tendon repairs have to be very accurate and the ability to repair them depends largely on what you start off with. They don’t have the same excellent reparative abilities as bone does to deal with missing fragments and still heal well. The majority of the time of the 7-hour operation would have been in tendon repair. Ideally, following on from this you need a aggressive, but protected rehabilitation using complicated hand and wrist splint to rehabilitate this kind of injury. This is not quick, especially in multiple tendon injuries and stiffness in the fingers and loss of range of movement is a real risk. You are looking at up to a year until you know what the end result is here.

Kubica cut the median and ulna nerves according to the doctors in Italy. These are the two nerves that supply the hand. The ulna nerve especially is involved in a lot of the fine movements of the fingers, ones you would for example need for controlling an F1 steering wheel’s dials. Again, the end result is some-what dependent on what you start with. If they were fully cut, the nerve needs to fully regenerate along their WHOLE length and here is the rate limiting factor for him, no matter how well motivated he is - nerves heal at a maximum rate of 1mm/day. Each nerve is probably 100cm to 120cm long. Before you can start rehabilitating his hand in terms of fine control and dexterity the nerve has to regenerate and function has to return. Nerves are fickle things and partial function can return more quickly or it can take much much longer. As someone wrote above, even after stretching, not cutting, nerves when they dislocated their shoulder, they had numbness in their hand for 2 years! It may be a year or more before he knows just how well these injuries will recover.

I wish Robert Kubica the very best of luck and my heart really goes out to him. He is one of the most exciting F1 drivers with an abundance of raw talent that is truly impressive. When I saw how well the new Lotus-Renault was going in his hands in the first test, I was really excited that he may be able to compete on a level playing field with the likes of Alonso, Vettel, Webber, Button and Hamilton at the front for race wins this season. I guess we will never know now, though Heidfeld’s pace will be a good marker I feel. I hope that come the start of the 2012 season he will be back in the black and gold of Lotus-Renault on the grid at the first race of the year. If he is there, it will be a testament to the skills of not only the surgeons and his team, but to a phenomenally talented individual and his will to succeed!

Keep up the excellent site, James, sorry about the rather long post!


Thanks so much for your frank and honest opinions from an informed point of view. As a layman, this is exactly how I have looked at the situation.

Driving a modern F1 car takes an enormous amount of digital dexterity. I think of it as "playing a piccolo with your thumbs", while displaying the fantastic car control that the best drivers have. There are many knobs and buttons that must be manipulated and with the addition of KERS and rear wing controls it has become even more complicated this year.


Longest post I remember!


Excellent post, thank you for sharing your expertise!


It may be a long post but it was very interesting, thanks for your input. Maybe if Heidfeld does a good job this year and Petrov continues to not cut it Renault will have the two old BMW teammates together again for 2012!


Well done Simon, you expressed all I wanted to say about Quick NIck by comparing him to Jenson and Mark. Your analysis is spot on and the medical part quite interesting too!


Indeed; Regaining fine motor skills will take the most time. Fortunately I suppose Robert has a good baseline for his reaction times and abilities prior to his accident.

That is not to speak negatively about the prospects of his recovery, I hope and pray he returns soon and has a long and successful career.


Heidfeld was without a drive because every team (including Renault) had not considered him despite all his experience. However, in the unfortunate circumstances Renault needed an experienced driver to partner Petrov who has only one season behind him.


To be fair, Petrov seat comes with his money. Not to mention other seats in the lesser teams...


Rob will be back second half of the season, no doubt, he is the most stubborn driver in F1 and he is already out of the op phase. Think some people will be really surprised by how quick he will bounce back.


i agree with you pal. we will see kubica back sooner than people think. the great valentino rossi was back on his m1 yamaha last year in a month when people said was closer to 3 months before he would be back. i think kubica will drive again this year no doubt about it. he is a class act no doubt about it.


Whilst it is a terrible thing that has happened to Robert Kubica and that I really hope he recovers well and is back behind the wheel of his Lotus Renault GP car as soon as he's ready, congratulations must be given to Nick Heidfeld for getting this drive.

Lotus Renault have made the right choice and I hope that Nick can do a good job for them in, what looks like, a good car this year.


Many things are uncertain in the Renault team and I bet their sponsors are very unhappy about this situation. The team needs to get an answer about when Kubica will race again. My bet is that Nick's time with Renault will not be long term. Let's believe some posts here saying Nick was quicker than Kimi or Kubica in some stages of his career, his inability to land a significant seat other than the BMW stint must have a reason.



What do you think will happen if the car is fast and Heidfeld destroys Petrov? If the points differential between Petrov and Heidfeld is the same as it was between Kubica and Petrov last year, surely Renault would lose face by keeping Vitaly on board and doing away with Heidfeld once Kubica returns.

Mind you, planning for and predicting when Kubica will return makes no sense until it's clear that full functionality has returned.


Good point. Petrov has to improve, I think he and the team recognise that and believe he will. He had some great days last year, he needs them a lot more often in 2011


And he just needs to finish and keep the thing on the track.


Heidfeld is in the same league as Rosberg, Webber, Massa and Button. He so much deserves his first win in F1!



You better change that F150 in your front page image before Ford comes after you.


On that topic, if I were Ferrari I would have renamed the car "F-150" instead of what they chose; what a mouthful.


I'm actually really disappointed they made this decision. Don't get me wrong, I might be biased in wanting to see a Senna in a Lotus again...but Nick Heidfeld has had a lot of opportunity in F1...Senna has not. Senna's overall experience is actually much less than most new drivers as he got back into racing much later.

They went with the safe option (Heidfeld) instead of the exciting one, and thats why i find it to be a lame decision. They already had a generally terrible driver in Petrov...why not risk a little with Senna? They would have garnered an immediate fanbase just because of the name...and I actually think given a chance Senna could be better than Nick, whom we've all seen. Just sounds dull to me...I'll be supporting the other Lotus team 🙂


I hope to see Bruno Senna in the car for the second half of the season after Renault have further developed the car.


Much has been said about the recovery of enough manipulative dexterity to enable Robert to operate the multiple buttons on the wheel, quite a pessimistic outlook, mostly. However, what's to say that he can't fiddle with the buttons with his left hand? He'll almost certainly recover enough strength to hold the wheel with his right hand and he will obviously compensate by using his left. I agree with a previous poster, he'll be at the Italian GP!


I am interested to see how this pans out. I think Heidfeld has been seen in the past as an intelligent but undemanding team player, able to feed back to engineers enabling them to develop the car without the hindernce of a driver who is overbearing or one who blows hot and cold. I'm not saying that Kubica is a 'primadonna' but I think his teams affection for him has gathered through his raw talent to pull something from nothing on the track rather than his dedication and ability to develop the car during tests or back at the factory.

What if Nick really gels with the team, facilitates a strong season long development of the car and outperforms Petrov to the bargain?

Will Renault have a difficult decision to make when Kubica is ready to return?

The choice may be between a truly strong and proven driver pairing (Heidfeld, Kubica) or one with a single exceptional driver, on track at least, (Kubica) and one who brings money, (Petrov) but both lacking in technical depth to develop the car.


I'm not a Kubica expert, but I've seen/read nothing that suggests he is poor at giving technical feedback.

James described his rally driving as a way of working on his skills.

Kubica is generally known as someone who lives for racing - sleeping in kart training as a teenage, shuns the glamour side of the sport, the dedication to weight loss.

It will be interesting in the sense that this is the first time that Nick has started a season in a team with high expectations and a strong expected edge over his team mate. Expectations are high.


Kubica lacking in technical depth to develop the car? thats funny because judging Renault’s development last year i have impression hes actually very good at giving feedback to engineers and knows what he wants from the car precisely.


Im happy to see Nick get the drive. As a follower of his since he drove the Prost im pulling for him, I hope he makes the most of the opportunity.


I struggle to get excited about Nick Heidfeld racing again. However I completely understand why.

It's sad that a more exciting prospect isn't available as a 'quantifiable' risk. Think of the amounts of KMs Jacques Villeneuve was given with Williams coming from a vastly different series, and got pole at his first race, and nearly won his first race. More recently Hamilton performed well from debut.

What gives a team the confidence that these two examples were worth the risk... probably Damon Hill and Fernando Alonso... the teams both had qualified winners as team 'leaders' mates.

Reno doesn't have this, but its still sad that a driver such as Bruno Senna who has tested for Honda, got a full season of F1 behind him, has talent and name to justify a decent drive (I agree I was somewhat disappointed by him at HRT especially vs. Klien), can't be risked, and F1's ultimate journeyman bar de Cessaris, gets a chance again that I don't believe personally he deserves, he has good cars and never proved better than average.

I personally want to see new talent coming in... but I equally have to say I don't want to see great junior formula drivers like Grosjean used and abused and tossed out of F1 without a fair opportunity.

So to sum it up, I don't Love the idea, but I do understand the unfortunate scenario of experience vs. risk.


Look I've never been a big fan of Heidfeld but Renault had no other option. Would love to see Renault have a successful year but I just can't see this driver lineup delivering any real success,I hope I'm wrong.


Renault have made the best decision available to them. With the car as quick as it is in testing they could not afford to stick in Senna and hope for the best. Heidfeld while not having set the world on fire has been picking up results by stealth for years.

I do think that Heidfeld needs to fend for himself abit more as he is placed in the DC and Rubens category of being a team player ie someone who will move over if asked. Kubica would never do that so Heidfeld needs to do much the same.

Petrov will be looking over his shoulder as well as if Heidfeld racks up the points (as he has done in his BMW days) and Kubica is able to return later in the year he could be one for the chop. Renault have made it clear they want 4th place in the championship and cannot afford to play nice with the driver line up.


I think this shows how tight the experienced driver market really is...I think if Petrov's performance in 2010 had been stronger, they would have opted for Senna...

I'm neither pro or against Heidfeld he's no doubt a nice guy but he comes across as lacking the personality and killer instinct in a driver that fans or sponsors want. Remember he was being groomed as the heir to Schumi...roll fwd 10yrs later, most of his ex-teammates have since won races and done better (Kimi, Massa, Webber, Kubica, etc.)



Not sure where to leave comments unrelated to the post at hand, so here it is.

Are you able to describe the relationship between an engine supplier like Cosworth and the teams they are working with? Specifically, how integrated are they into the overall design/development of the car?

Looking at the packaging of Renault's exhaust, for example. How would a team like Williams adapt that type of system to their car working with Cosworth? How would the workload breakdown, and if Cosworth is gaining knowledge working with Williams, how do they isolate that knowledge if asked to work on the same type of effort with Virgin?


A real shame that Kubica is out for the season, but I guess Renault didn't have much choice but to sign Heidfeld as his replacement. He's a safe pair of hands and is bound to score plenty of points. He'll probably blow Petrov away, anyhow...


I still resent the way you refer to Heidfeld as 'solid' or 'a safe choice' James, if you check out my response to Dale in post 34 I'm sure you will agree you are doing him a disservice.

He has been team-mates with Alesi, Kubica, Massa, Raikkonen, Villeneuve and Webber and beaten them all.

I know that Alesi and Raikkonen are two of your favourite drivers ever and that you have a soft spot for Kubica and Webber but I'm sure you'd concede that they were beaten fair and square by Quick Nick and that he deserves far more credit than you and many others in F1 give him.

Perception it seems, is everything, sadly.


This post is hilarious. It is really simple, and we don't need a post on a website to figure this out. If Nick was better than all the drivers you listed, he would be driving an F1 car already, instead of being without a drive. It is just common sense. He's been through so many teams that one would have picked him up. Instead, he did not have a drive. All the drivers that you list have had long, long F1 careers (infact all of them have won at least 1 race if I am not mistaken) so lets bring some common sense to this...if he was that good he'd be driving in a top team. The guys you have listed have all driven for top teams.


Your so called 'common sense' assumption that formula one is somewhat meritocratic is laughable im afraid. 'If Nick was better than all the drivers you listed, he would be driving an F1 car already, instead of being without a drive.'

Do you not think his lack of sponsorship was to blame? Do you think MSC would have got his break with Jordan if he hadnt got the money (Eddie Jordan admitted so much). f1, like life, is made up of breaks for drivers on a varying amount of merit, money and good fortune.


Spot on Andrew - both in your analysis of Heidfeld's F1 season and your response to John - the world doesn't work that way, where the best drivers get the best seats, it is as much about money as it is about luck and most certainly perception - ie there is a belief that Nick is nothing more than solid or a safe pair of hands and thus has never got a big break whereas lesser drivers such as Kovalainen, Massa and Ralf had higher stocks and thus ended up in great cars


I don't know where to start in correcting the errors and wrong assumptions in this post



I thought I would have an attempt at this

and don't think 'Quick Nick Rules' is too far wrong.

2001- out qualifies and races inexperienced Raikkonen.

2002 - beats inexperienced massa.

2003 - lacklustre beaten by Frentzen

2004 - not comparing pay drivers, but showed great grit and determination with jordan.

2005 - beaten webber on points before his injury. Please correct me if i'm wrong; but I am not. How many podiums did each have? 3-1 to heidfeld i recall.

2006 - beats revitalised JV and inexperienced Kubica

2007 - beats RK

2008 - beaten by RK

2009 - close by minor victory for Nick.

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