Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul is keen to downplay any talk of Robert Kubica forging a permanent return to the team after his successful recent test in a 2012 F1 car at Valencia.
A media suggestion that the Pole would even take part in an FP1 session at Monza stoked the fires as current driver Jolyon Palmer continues to struggle. Abiteboul insisted in Baku that FP1 running was not on the cards.
“Easy answer on the last one,” he said. “No, absolutely not. I don’t know where this is coming from and I can completely wipe that one out. Also I would to make it clear that I guess the questions are unconnected – the question regarding Jo and the question regarding Robert. Robert has been a family member of the Enstone team.
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“He has been very close and very loyal. The team in Enstone, which is a very small group of people, actually have been very loyal to a number of drivers. In particular Robert made a huge impression on people who’ve been around, Alan Permane, Bob Bell, Ricardo on the Viry side.
“People feel very loyal and feel they owe something to Robert for making something big in their life and there was this opportunity that we give to him, that we could afford to him to drive again, because it was actually a marketing event that got cancelled, so we had a car available at the track and we offered that opportunity to him.
“Robert is going through some form of program to try to understand what he can do. He has been driving a number of cars, Formula E, GP3, F2, LMP2, you name it, so I think he wants to understand what he can do as part of his sort of rehabilitation program. We’ll see. There is nothing else that is planned for the time being, apart from a marketing event at Goodwood, where he will be driving the same car, E20, in front of Lord March’s house.”
Abiteboul admitted that the onus is on Palmer to raise his game in the face of a huge amount of pressure as he struggles to match team mate Nico Hulkenberg. He insists that the Briton is safe for the time being.
“If you want to link that to the bigger picture for Jo, our situation is very clear: he has a contract with us; we are completely committed to helping him get through the period, which is a tough period, that’s obvious. He has no ultimatum, but having said that he has to deliver, like every single member of the team.
“But I think what will help him is that frankly we take him out of the spotlight under which he is constantly, in particular in starting the first day, Friday, and all the media focus, all the media attention, is not necessarily helping. Obviously you have to do what you have to do, and ask the questions, which you feel are the right ones. But that doesn’t help.
“That’s part of the job, part of the pressure that every Formula One driver has to go through. He has to live with that. We are trying our best to protect him but at the same time to do the best as a team to explain to him what we are expecting and we had that type of conversation with him yesterday – go through the metrics and try to define the targets short to medium terms so that he can improve. So that’s the situation really.”