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Senna and Heidfeld to try out as Kubica replacement
Senna and Heidfeld to try out as Kubica replacement
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Feb 2011   |  9:07 pm GMT  |  201 comments

Renault has issued a statement tonight saying that both Bruno Senna and Nick Heidfeld will be given a chance to test the new car at this weekend’s Jerez test with a view to replacing team leader Robert Kubica, badly injured in a rally accident on Sunday.

“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, ” said the statement.

Team principal Eric Boullier said yesterday that “we need to understand if we are making a choice for short or long term, but we are coming around to thinking the latter.”

Heidfeld gets ready (Darren Heath)

Heidfeld represents a solid choice. He is very experienced, strong technically and has a lot of experience of the Pirelli tyres as he is the original official tester for the Italian marque. Senna did not really get a chance to show what he can do in last year’s Hispania and it would be good for him to get a chance. But with Petrov still learning the ropes in the other car, if the team is thinking about a driver to get a minimum of 150 points on the board with what looks like a quick car this year then they may vote for Heidfeld.

Kubica continues to please the medics treating him in Italy. He has moved the fingers of his right hand, partially severed in two places in the horrific crash. But it will be a week before doctors will know whether the blood supply is secure and the hand will survive. You get the feeling though that Kubica will recover as fast as it’s possible to.

As his friend and doctor Riccardo Ceccarelli said, “Two days ago we were praying for him to live, now we are beginning to dream.”

According to stories in the Gazzetta dello Sport, Kubica was joking with Boullier yesterday saying that he is indestructable, “You know I’m a robot?” he joked with his team boss. Meanwhile Petrov brought him a spring loaded hand strengthener.

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Really! What I meant was that don’t you think his assessment of Heidfeld would have been sought when Renault were looking to fill the second seat before Petrov was confirmed?


imo having more friday young driver and testing in season with young drivers only aloowed, would also allow young drivers to get the experience in f1 to handle taking over should they need to.

F1 needs less ‘factory simulator’ drivers and more real test track drivers.

James, isnt Badoer still available for reanult! lol


Strikes me that Kubica would be the best person to judge Heidfelds capabilities having been in the same equipment for a few seasons – perhaps he’s had some influence on the choice.


Except that he’s been in an induced coma and then heavily medicated.


I don’t think that RK is sitting up in hospital

working out Team strategy.


In 2008 in GP2 Senna outpaced Di Grassi, Grosjean, Maldonado, Buemi, Petrov, Chandhok and Kobayashi. He finished ahead of all of them in the title race.

In Honda testing at the end of 2008 he was faster than Barrichello but Brawn went with the experience. He is a class act that deserves a chance much more than Heidfeld.

Senna just could be something special and one thing we know for sure is that Heidfeld certainly isn’t.


Actually Di Grassi scored more points per race than Senna, but he did not start all the races cause he had a job as Renault reserve.

Di Grassi also impressed honda’s engineers more than Senna at that late 2008 test.


Just thought I’d throw something out there I hadn’t yet seen in this thread, tires and driving style.

I read somewhere, that in Nick, and Robert’s first year together, Nick could outperform Robert because the Michelin (I think) tires were pretty soft and unstable, which suited Nick’s smooth style better than Robert’s.

The following year’s Bridgestones were more stable, allowing Robert to make full use of his more agressive style, while Nicks smooth style had trouble, especially in qualifying, getting heat in the tires.

It looks like this year’s tire may again suit smooth drivers like Jenson and Nick… so having a solid, and experienced driver, who’s driving style suits the tires might work out pretty well for renault.



I have never been very impresssed by Heidfeld. It seems to be the same with team principals as otherwise, he would be driving for a F1 team already instead of waiting in the sideline. I say for Boullier to swallow his pride and bag to bring back Kimi Raikkonen. Now that Renault appears to have a good car this year, it is important for them to make full use of it to get as many points as possible to have a bigger cut of the TV money cake. May be it is time for Renalut to think about changing their team principal if he cannot bring in a good enough driver to carry the team forward to fame and fortune.


Anybody else just think that senna might get tge drive. Despite the odds. In a very wierd way I just wonder whether it is meant to be…

I firmly believe he is the best bet. Renault need to look long term here, as if (big if I know) Robert is able to recover and reach the same level he will move into one of the very top level f1 teams.

If Bruno doesn’t get it, I would imagine he will be pretty hacked off as the reserve driver.

James, any confirmation of the running order yet for sat/sun? Nick or Bruno?


Not seen anything yet. Check the Lotus Renault twitter feed


Yep. Been watching it.

Do you think they will make a decision after Jerez, as to me they want to find out as much as they can about Roberts condition. They originally said after both tests…


I’m not sure I agree with all this talk of Nick having had his chances etc. I feel he lost a drive in 2010 due his belief he would get one Mercedes. While he may not be as showy and wild as some of the others on the grid but he is proven time and again that he can bring the car home in the points. He has proven that he can move up the grid during the race such as Malaysia 05 and Great Britain 08. Senna stuggled to beat his various team mates during his first year.


I dont see how Senna’s one year in a sub standard car qualifies him for a full time drive in a top flight team. And fail to see where “deserve” has anything do with it either. I find that laughable.

I like Heidfeld and hope he gets the drive. I want to see him win just win one race! If you recall Williams chose him over Pizzonia for his development skill and technical feedback, and how many races ago was that…he has only improved surely. It seems this is always mentioned about him wherever he goes. Renault would benefit from Heidfeld much more than from giving a rookie a chance because he “deserves” it. However as bad as I hate to admit it, I have seen the lack of X factor, that he seems content to stay put during a race etc. These are valid observations. If given this chance he needs to find some fire and make the most of it…his days and continual second chances are numbered.


Is there a chance that they bring back JV?

I remember he did some races in the Renault when Flavio fired Trulli.

And if Renault pulled that off and Kimi were to return there would be 7 World champions on the grid.

Not likely though but would really be interesting


If Boullier hinted at a long term choice, I really doubt that means Heidfeld? According to everyone, he would be a “solid choice”, which is just to fill the void for now. Long term, they’d look to get someone like Senna or Hulk to get as much experience as possible.

I’m not quite sure how developments of the car during the year depend solely on driver input either… is this role being blown out of proportion, James?

Did Renault do a miracle development job last year due to R&D and engineering, or was it more Robert? I think they are experienced enough themselves to develop the car at a reasonable rate, the rate which is probably finally dictated by how quick a driver can validate the result….maybe one of the few reasons to pick Heidfeld – is that enough?


Renault are a racing team, and I believe they will make their decision as racers, not marketers. I think having Senna in the car on Fridays should satisfy the sponsors, and therefore they are free to make their decision on pace alone.

Having said that, I believe that Senna has the potential to be very quick. Remember Ross Brawn came close to signing him for Brawn for the 2009 season, and I believe he was set for the drive until Honda pulled out. Therefore, I think it’ll be a close call. Renault may decide to run each driver with different fuel loads/tyres etc, so the wider world can’t see instantly who is quicker, less pressure that way too. I hope there will be enough clues for James to figure out who was quickest!


Can’t they give Senna the first 4 races and then pull in Heidfeld if does poorly?



Heidfeld disappointed the Sauber management, as well as me personally, when he suddenly found 3 tenths out of nowhere when Kubica replaced the slower Villeneuve at BMW. They were most displeased that he hadn’t been giving his utmost and I think you have to count that against him as a driver.

Personally I don’t think he was ever the after that motorbike knocked him down in 2005. I’d guess it made him realise that he was mortal after all: something that racing drivers normally don’t even think about. He never looked like Quick Nick again, to my eyes.

I do think he’s by far Renault’s best bet, though. They’re pushing the envelope with this car, it’ll need maximum developent time and good technical feedback. The blown floor could also make it a touch unpredictable to drive. Renault need a safe pair of hands and they don’t come any safer than Heidfeld, and even though he might not be as quick as he once was he’s still far from slow.

I think having spent a year largely on the sidelines after being so close to winning with BMW in 2008 will spur him on. He desperately wants to end his career with some wins to his name and Renault might just have a car capable of delivering them. If he gets this seat, I think we’ll see him drive above himself in 2011.


It was more than 3/10ths…


If they choose Heidfield they want their heads testing, so us and the world you mean business and go for Kimi or how about bringing Montoya back he’d certainly get them headlines and press coverage.


Kubicas come back this season would be a miracle. Well, I do believe exactly this is what’s going to happen.

It seems to me the Renault team momentum is very much still going strong despite what’s happened.

They are doing a good job.


Heidfeld would have to be the favourite here given his experience, which Renault needs. And his experiences as Pirelli tyre tester would no doubt be invaluable.

But I can’t help thinking that the team should try to lure Raikkonen, he would be a massive drawcard and he’s got charisma as Kubica does, unlike Heidfeld or any other potential candidates.


A very tricky one:

Heidfeld could develop Kubica’s 2012 car AND be a great mentor to Petrov.

On the other hand. Heidfeld will be driving Kubica’s car. I don’t know how much their driving style match? Wasn’t Heidfeld (driving Pedro’s car) outperformed by Kobayashi last season?

Senna does deserve a chance. But will he be able to develop Kubica’s 2012 car? Renault cannot afford to waste two years …


Kubica’s 2012 car – I like that.


I like your approach. You do not even consider Kubica’s carrier is in doubt.


Well, if he were human I would …


Heidfeld needs to shave this year if he wants the Renault seat. Ever since he has had his wild man beard he has driven pretty ordinary. Sure this reply has no substance just wanted to say what I have thought for sometime.


Heidfeld has had his chance, he’s been in F1 for ten years and doesn’t really have much to show for it, yes he’s good at bringing the car home but thats about it, renault need someone that going to go for it with every fibre of there being, I just don’t see Heidfeld accomplishing that. F1 has far to many drivers that are well past there use by date, it’s time to start bringing in some fresh talent, this is a perfect opportunity for Senna and Hulkenberg, I hope one of those two gets the opportunity to show what they are capable of.


Bruno Senna, He has no experience but it would be awesome same car as his uncle, i might even get a bit teary eyed.

On the other hand we have Quick Nick is the most boring guy formula 1 ever has seen. Why give him another chance, so we can have 5 Germans on the grid no sorry 6WTF. Nothing against Germans but come on, its a world championship.

Also Bruno’s uncle is also kind of an Formula1 GOD and we need to make a sacrifice to him, so he will give us the best season of all time.

Lotus don’t worry about the points you will have a Senna in your car. If he is good, think of the coin you will make and the championships you will win. NO TO NICK


Robert is fantastic driver and man (not robot).

In order to understand how unlucky he was in the accident please have a look at youtube link where you can see accident simulation:



James, Heidfeld seems the judicious choice, but IF Senna were to have more pace than Heidfeld in Jerez, do you think there is any chance that Renault would give him the drive?


Thats a really interesting point, we’ll all be watching the times closely!

On a seperate note, I think Petrov’s present was a nice thought….hope we get more good news on RK soon.




James, with the track evolving throughout the test, would the driver testing first be at a disadvantage?

Not only would Sunday’s driver have the benefit of a more rubbered-in track but also an extra day of setup information. Seems to me that could make a direct comparison problematic.


Let’s not forget about money. Senna is already at LRGP and Heidfeld would like be have a seat in F1 car again, so he will probably accept reasonable salary to get a chance. IMHO Raikkonen would cost too much, similarly ‘buying out’ a driver from other team could be expensive.

Hard to say what LRGP sponsors think about the situation (apart from their compassion, they must think about business as well) but I assume that some of them aren’t happy that the team lost Kubica month before the start of the season. Thus LRGP may be under the pressure right now. Fortunately they have Russian money from Pietrow and Lotus Group as a sponsor, but definitively they will need more to keep developing the car during the season.

Heidfeld has good ‘ability/cost ratio’ so it is optimal choice at the moment.


I reckon Heidfeld is easily the best option. He’s not an absolute ace, but he’ll do the job. Even if the Hulk were available, I see him as a little inconsistent and inexperienced, even though I think he has a really bright future. Lets face it, it’s a joke he’s not in a Williams this year. Great to hear Bob K’s condition improving, what a legend! Hey James Allen, great work over the last few days, as usual.


Thanks for that

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