Trio on shortlist to replace Robert Kubica

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The Independent Online

Lotus Renault appear to have arrived at a shortlist of three names to drive in place of the stricken Robert Kubica this season.

The 26-year-old Pole'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.

A raft of names have been floated as possibilities to race in his stead, with the chances of him taking any part in this Formula One season seemingly minimal.

One eye-catching possibility would have been a return to the sport for former champion Kimi Raikkonen, but Renault appear to have settled on Bruno Senna, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nick Heidfeld as their three preferred options.

Renault team principal Eric Boullier was quoted on as saying: "We will look for Kubica's substitute: the names considered are Senna, Liuzzi and Heidfeld."

Senna is one of the team's two reserve drivers, while Liuzzi and Heidfeld are without a drive this season.

Boullier also defended the team's decision to allow Kubica to go rallying so close to the start of the F1 season, a decision which has attracted criticism in some quarters.

He said: "The team is close to Robert, we wait for him with open arms. It was Robert's choice, he wanted to go rallying at all costs and Renault authorised it.

"Now we just wait to know what the recovery time is for our driver."

Kubica underwent more than seven hours of surgery after Sunday's crash and remains in intensive care at the Santa Corona Hospital in northern Italy.

He faces at least two more operations, the first of which, to stabilise fractures to his right shoulder and right foot, is scheduled for tomorrow.