After a disastrous season at the departing BMW team Robert Kubica seemingly took the safe choice by accepting a seat at the Renault team. Such a decision was somewhat surprising in the wake of Renault’s race fixing fiasco and former champion Fernando Alonso’s exit, but it gave an opportunity for Kubica to remain in the sport in a team sometimes proven capable of improving a career.
Yet the decision seemed doomed from the start as at first Renault announced they were not sure of their inclusion in the 2010 season which has now been followed by the emerging news that they are to be taken over by Luxembourg investment company Genii Capital.
Robert’s response to this revelation revealed his uncertainty of his position and caused him to question his role at the team. He was left to contemplate whether the grass would indeed be greener on another side.
Due to the new found unpredictability of performance with teams it has become harder to distinguish what the right career move will be for Kubica. If he were to receive an offer from a more admirable team then it may become an option too tempting to resist.
With reference to his new ‘team’, their execution of the 2009 season faced difficulties in keeping up with the front runners.
Were it not for Alonso’s masterful out performance of the car they would probably have been left at the back of the pack, ruing the mistakes made with the poor development in the pre-season. Where other teams succeeded in working around the budget gap and producing a peak performance, Renault seemed to fail and were justly punished as a result.
With Kubica in a similar situation may or may not be able to exude the same amount of out-performance to the extent Alonso portrayed, but he is none the less a driver capable of producing a good level of quality.
This view of the Pole has sadly lost some of its credibility in a season where Nick Heidfeld began to regain some of the equal status that had once befallen himself and Kubica. Cracks had begun to show.
Was he just a driver who excelled in a beauty of a car, yet failed in a car that was far from being a stallion?
Jenson Button is a prime example of a driver who encompasses the ability to perform when his car can perform but to fade when it does not. Robert sadly seemed to portray himself in a similar light this year.
So what Robert has to ask himself is whether he believes that the ‘Renault’ team can propel him back into the spotlight that he so amazingly took in the 2008 season. His spectacular showing of pace and consistency gifted him a surprise championship lead in a car that was not the best, but good enough to succeed.
His story was inspirational to watch and left us yearning for more from the Pole, but as of yet we have yet to see a follow up.
You can’t help but wonder that if he is given anything other than a lacklustre piece of machinery to contend with that he will just fall into oblivion and never fulfil the expectations and triumphs that we expected.
This was a driver after all who came back after a horrific accident in Montreal, and returned stronger and more able than ever, resulting in his unaccredited status of driver of the season in 2008.
So what really are his other options if he were to choose to ditch the team that appears to offer him no reliability in their actions?
Firstly there is the seat at Mercedes Grand Prix still up for grabs.
Most are dismissive of Kubica’s or anyone else’s opportunities at grabbing this seat as Michael Schumacher is expected to make the long awaited return back to the track and partner Nico Rosberg.
Such an idea however is not without flaws as although Michael is arguably the best driver ever to grace an F1 track, he is out of practice, and lets face it, not getting any younger.
Mercedes might do themselves favours if they would take a chance on a talented youngster as opposed to taking a risk on a proven but reforming champion.
Kubica’s other option appears to be the seat at Sauber, which ironically is where his career was left in jeopardy under the guise of BMW.
Their acquisition by former owner Peter Sauber however could leave the door open for Kubica to return to a team he knows well, and one that he has adapted to despite their last season of disappointment.
Of course there are many other drives still available but none of which will be suited to his status. Could you really see him taking a drive at Toro Rosso, or beginning late talks with one of the newer teams, Campos Racing or the US F1 team?
The choices are therefore limited to the Polish racer, although not completely cut off to him, so he has at this moment in time options to go elsewhere.
He is not expected to lose a drive whatever happens; just a down turn in his career may be exposed if he ends up with the wrong car beneath him.
What is clear from a watching spectator is that he may indeed benefit from a further season away from the front of the pack. After such a dramatic fall from grace that was increasingly painful to observe for such a deserving driver, he may profit from a season of re-emergence at a team where the stakes are not too high.
If he can prove in a smaller and less expectant team that he has the ability to outperform even the weaker cars then he will again become a highly sought after driver. Maybe then the likes of Mclaren and Ferrari will consider him a more worthy option considering that this is obviously not their opinion now.
After once being touted as a future champion in waiting, Kubica could re-establish this connection to the audience if he can portray the abilities that we know he possesses. Renault may be able to offer him this chance of progression in his career, but they need to realise that their own squabbles can affect a driver’s journey and not just their own. Their selfish attitude in claiming a driver and then putting his future at risk is not what we expect of a Formula 1 team.
The truth of the matter is that a driver of Robert Kubica’s calibre needs a consistent team and not one that will become a vision of unwarranted change.
If Robert says he wants out then you would think that few would judge his decision, but only wonder what the alternative will be.
If Formula 1 loses such a talent with the outcome of the teams and Kubica’s own decision then this will be an overwhelming tragedy that would echo Raikkonen’s departure from the sport.