Renault has announced that Robert Kubica will test a 2017 Formula 1 car for the outfit after the Hungarian Grand Prix. The 32-year-old Polish returnee will drive the RS17 at the in-season test in Hungary, with Renault explicit that it is to gauge whether he is ready for competition in 2018.
He will join a competitive queue of drivers for whom that second Renault seat alongside Nico Hulkenberg is a great opportunity; Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez being two of them. Sainz has been told by Red Bull that he is free to leave at the end of 2017 if he repays the money that Red Bull spent on getting him to F1. This would be in the region of £4m to £5m, not counting his Toro Rosso years, so the question is who would fund that?
Spelling it out, Renault Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul says that the 2017 car test will be a full assessment of Kubica’s capabilities in a current car to see if he could ‘return to competition in the upcoming years’.
His potential comeback first gained traction with a June test at Valencia, with Kubica then testing the 2012 Renault F1 car at Circuit Paul Ricard, following that up with an appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. His last entrance in a grand prix took place in 2011, and the Pole has completed 76 races for Sauber and Renault over his career.
“The first two days of testing allowed both Robert and ourselves to gather a great amount of information,” Abiteboul said.
Kubica will drive the first day of the two-day test, beginning on the Tuesday at Hungaroring after the race.
“The upcoming session with the R.S.17 at the Hungaroring will allow us all to obtain detailed and precise data in a current car and representative conditions,” said Abiteboul.
“After this test, we will carefully analyse the collected information to determine in what conditions it would be possible for Robert to return to competition in the upcoming years.”
According to Autosport, Kubica’s classification as a non-rookie means Renault will test him in lieu of either Jolyon Palmer or Nico Hulkenberg, as the FIA demands that two of the four in-season test days must be completed by a driver who hasn’t competed in more than two grands prix.
Hulkenberg tested for one day in Bahrain meaning that he has one day of testing left. Renault test driver and Formula 2 race-winner Nicholas Latifi will run the second day of the Hungary test.
In-season testing buzz
After Force India announced that Gerhard Berger’s nephew and DTM racer (currently third in the standings) Lucas Auer will occupy one of the two rookie test days in Hungary, Sauber has now announced that Nobuharu Matsushita will take the wheel for the Swiss outfit.
The Japanese F2 driver will make his F1 debut on the second day of the in-season test after fellow F2 racer Gustav Malja takes over the opening day.
23-year-old Matushita began his career in karting with stints in single-seater championships across Asian. He now races for ART in the F2 Championship having taken one victory.
“When I was four years old, I was fascinated by Michael Schumacher, watching him race in Formula 1,” said Matsushita.
“Since then my dream was to become a Formula 1 driver.
“I am very excited about my first F1 test and I am really looking forward to driving the Sauber C36-Ferrari at the Hungaroring – it is a great opportunity for me.
“I hope it will be a productive day for the team as well as for myself, so that I can learn as much as possible. I would like to thank the Sauber F1 Team for making this happen.”
New Sauber Team Principal Frederic Vasseur continued: “I am pleased that Nobuharu has this great opportunity. He deserves the experience of his first test in a Formula 1 car.
“Ever since his debut in Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix, I have been following his progress closely, and have watched him advance his performance from year to year. With this F1 test, he comes one step closer to his dream of becoming an F1 driver one day.”
Current F2 dominator Charles LeClerc will take the wheel for Ferrari on the first day of the test while Briton George Russell, leader of the GP3 Series, will join Mercedes for its test.
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