Kubica Crashes Out Before The Season's Even Begun: Heidfeld's Last Chance?

David HuggettContributor IFebruary 16, 2011

Robert Kubica
Robert KubicaPaul Gilham/Getty Images

We always want the offseason to deliver us some sort of excitment to keep us going until March, but what we certainly don't want is news like that of Robert Kubica's recent rally crash in Italy. 

And a fairly horrific accident it was. 

The young pole was not far from the start of the Ronde di Andora rally when his Skoda collided into a church and finished up with a crash barrier, penetrating the driver's foot well. 

His co-driver escaped unharmed, but Robert sustained horrific injuries to his hand, which was partially severed, as well as fracturing his arm and his leg.

After several operations and some time spent in intensive care, all is starting to look well. But it was definately touch and go for a while and his career looked to be in serious jeopardy.

Sadly for the Renault man, his 2011 season looks all but over. The only good news, if we can really call it that under the circumstances, is for Nick Heidfeld, who's career has been somewhat of a roller coaster over the last twelve months or so. 

The German veteran has been pushed from BMW, to Mercedes test driver, to Pirelli test driver, to Sauber replacement driver, to having no drive at all?

I know that the last thing Heidfeld would have felt is glad about Kubica's crash, but his new seat at Renault has given him what is surely his last chance to shine?

He has a well established CV in Formula 1 with 172 completed races under his belt and after his blinding test drive in Jerez, where he finished top of the table by taking a tenth out of Alonso's fastest lap, he showed he more than still has the credentials.

The other thing very much on his side is that Renaults 2011 R31 is looking great. The R30 of last season was already showing serious promise in the hands of both Kubica and eventually Petrov, who could only manage half a second off Heidfeld's pace at the recent test.

Heidfeld has never really had a crack a championship winning car, although he came close until Schumacher decided to return to the game in 2010. Mercedes is very well where he might be right now and it would certainly have been a bitter pill to swallow being scuppered to, even then, what he could have looked at as his final chance.

So, can we now look at this man as a potential front runner this term? His determination is going to be absolutely boiling over and we know that Renault have taken titles in the past. 

Ok, winning the title might be a bit ambitious, but surely knowing what is at stake is going to make this man one to watch this season.

Part of me would love it to have been the old BMW partnership with Kubica in the other car, but surely if Heidfeld out-races his Russian teammate this season, that could very much be on the cards in 2012?

In other news, Pirelli have already said that they want the races to be two stop events, adding to that were required from the days of refueling.

So, with the first race drawing ever closer and speculation around who's going to be pulling the punches already flying around, what a season this is already turning out to be.