Fresh from announcing that former World Champion Kimi Raikkonen will drive for the team in 2012, Lotus-Renault (soon to be Lotus) are in talks with an unlikely party to be their reserve driver for next season.
If you've never heard of Maria de Villota you're probably not alone. At the age of 31, she has had—thus far—no notable success in any form of motor racing.
Her last race win came in 2001, driving in the Spanish Formula Toyota 1300 series. She has since competed in four seasons of Spanish F3 (with one podium), the Daytona 24 Hours (10th in class), the Euroseries 3000 (best result 7th) and Superleague Formula (best result 4th).
Her official website states that she drove in the World Touring Car Championship in 2006 and 2007, but makes no mention of a best-placed finish.
With such a record, few would put her within a hundred miles of a Formula One car. But in August this year, De Villota tested a 2009-spec Renault F1 car at Paul Ricard. No lap times were released.
Meanwhile, dozens of young, talented drivers, who have proven themselves in GP2, Formula Renault or Formula BMW are left out in the cold, with not even a sniff of an F1 drive.
Of Lotus-Renault's current crop of talent, Vitaly Petrov has been left off the provisional entry list for 2012—Kimi Raikkonen's arrival has placed his race seat in doubt. Bruno Senna appears out of luck, while Romain Grosjean remains in limbo.
Formula One today revolves around money and publicity, and that's what Lotus-Renault seem to be chasing. Unless she was blisteringly quick in her test session—and let's be honest, she probably wasn't—signing her would make no racing sense at all.
It's difficult enough for skilled youngsters to make the step to F1. Teams ignoring them to score some cheap column inches only makes it harder.