Possible replacement Vitantonio Liuzzi focused on Robert Kubica recovery

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Vitantonio Liuzzi has sidestepped questions about the possibility of replacing Robert Kubica at Lotus Renault this season, insisting the stricken Pole's recovery is the priority.

Kubica's motorsport career remains in the balance despite encouraging progress in his recovery from serious injuries sustained on Sunday, when his right hand was partially severed in an accident on the Ronde di Andora Rally.

An initial estimation from surgeon Professor Mario Igor Rossello, who was involved in the seven-and-a-half-hour operation to reconstruct Kubica's hand, was that the 26-year-old faced a year out of Formula One, although Lotus Renault team principal Eric Boullier later expressed hope of a quicker return.

The new F1 season gets under way in Bahrain on March 13 and the team have a choice to make as to whether they turn to one of their reserve drivers to fill the void alongside Russia's Vitaly Petrov.

Bruno Senna, who raced for Hispania last year, and Romain Grosjean, who contested seven grands prix for Renault in 2009, are the men in the frame although the team may yet seek a more experienced head, with both Nick Heidfeld and Liuzzi - both of whom are without a drive in 2011 - likely candidates.

Liuzzi, though, said after visiting the Santa Corona hospital in Pietra Ligure where Kubica is recovering: "A lot of people talked about this: not the team, but a lot of journalists.

"Personally, at the moment I think Robert's health is the first thing. Then, it's obvious that when Renault are sure that Robert won't be able to step in the car, this chance might be open and I hope to be chosen instead of somebody else. But, again, at the moment Robert's health is the priority."

Kubica was yesterday brought out of a coma induced after the operation and his condition has been described as "much better" by his team.

Kubica was yesterday able to move his fingers on his damaged hand and communicate with members of his family, before being placed under medication in order to sleep for at least the next 24 hours.

Doctors warned, however, that it would be a further six days before it is known whether the operation to reconstruct his hand has been a success.

Liuzzi, speaking to 422race.com, said of his visit: "I didn't see him personally. But I spoke to the doctors, his manager and Dr Ceccarelli (Lotus Renault GP's doctor): the people who are closest to him and who saw him. It seems that everything is going the right way and he is recovering right.

"For sure the first 4-5 days will be the most critical ones, but at the moment everything seems to go well."

Kubica faces the prospect of further major surgery in the coming days, with doctors evaluating how best to treat fractures to the elbow and shoulder of his right arm. He also suffered fractures to his right leg - injuries which in themselves could take three to four months to heal.

Sunday's crash saw Kubica's Super 2000 Skoda Fabia collide with a crash barrier on the outside of a fast right-hand turn on the first special stage of the rally.