Renault give Nick Heidfeld Jerez test drive opportunity
BBC Formula 1 pundits on Kubica's rally accident
Renault have given Nick Heidfeld the opportunity to prove himself as a possible replacement for the injured Robert Kubica in testing this week.
The German, 33, who drove for Sauber at the end of last season, was confirmed to drive alongside second driver Vitaly Petrov as well as Bruno Senna in Spain.
Kubica, 26, is recovering in hospital after suffering multiple fractures during a rallying accident in Italy.
Heidfeld has 11 years of experience in Formula 1, with five different teams.
Renault chairman Gerard Lopez said the British-based team want a driver with experience and the capability to challenge for the championship.
Senna, who raced for the Hispania team for much of last year in his rookie season, is the first reserve at Renault and will share driving duties with Heidfield in the R31 at this week's second test in Jerez, which begins on Thursday.
The Brazilian joined Renault in January as reserve alongside Romain Grosjean, who contested seven races for Renault in 2009, and Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy.
However, Senna's lack of experience could benefit Heidfield in the battle to drive alongside Russian Petrov for the first Grand Prix of the season in Bahrain on 13 March.
Former Prost, Jordan and Williams man Heidfeld fits the experienced bill having achieved 12 podium finishes during his 172-race career.
He has also been Mercedes' reserve as well as a test driver for tyre supplier Pirelli.
"We all know that Nick is rather good, but we don't know what level he is in now, we don't know how he [will do] with our car," said Lopez.
Kubica had looked in excellent form after setting the fastest time overall at last week's opening test in Valencia before his crash on Sunday.
And Lopez stressed the importance of choosing the right man to deputise for the 26-year-old Pole, who will undergo further surgery on Friday.
"The fate of our season will depend on the new driver," said Lopez, whose Genii Capital Group now owns the Renault F1 team.
Robert has a very strong character and he wants to return as soon as possible to compete
Renault F1 chairman Gerard Lopez
"If Robert's recovery is long and he will not return this season we will rely on a driver with experience. Of course, we must see what happens with the tests we're going to do."
Renault confirmed that Petrov will drive the R31 as scheduled for the first two days of testing in southern Spain, while the team will announce their weekend line-up on Friday.
Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi, who lost his seat at Force India to Paul di Resta, had also been mentioned as a possible replacement candidate, alongside Kimi Raikkonen, who won the title for Ferrari in 2007.
Lopez visited Kubica at the Santa Corona Hospital in northern Italy where he is expected to recuperate from his serious injuries for the next two to three weeks.
Kubica faces at least two more operations, the first of which is to stabilise fractures to his right shoulder and right foot.
"I can say that I am more comfortable and confident now that I have met him," Lopez said.
"The situation is more rosy than we expected but we were very frightened by this accident.
"We cannot yet know if and when Robert will be back on track. But I can say that Robert has a very strong character and he wants to return as soon as possible to compete.
"Robert is a great loss that forces us to revise our plans. Now we need to employ all our energies to support the team. This is clearly a difficult time."
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