Nico Hulkenberg, Jolyon Palmer, Cyril Abiteboul

Abiteboul: Kubica will not replace Palmer at Spa

Nico Hulkenberg, Jolyon Palmer, Cyril Abiteboul

Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul has pacified Jolyon Palmer and assured the under pressure driver that Robert Kubica’s evaluation at the forthcoming Hungaroring Formula 1 test will not impact his drive in 2017 or indeed prevent him from driving at Spa after the summer break.

Kubica will drive the new generation F1 cars for the first time in an effort to ascertain if the he will be able to cope with driving at high speed and race distant stints in the cockpit.

Talk in the paddock has suggested that if Kubica excels during the test he may oust Palmer for the Belgian Grand Prix and beyond. But this speculation appears way off the mark.

Abiteboul told reporters ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, “We continue to support Jo and there is absolutely no change of plan. It is true that with Robert we feel we need to investigate a little bit further after all the tests we have done.”

“Obviously there have been the tests we did with the 2012 car, but also we have done other things – medical checks and simulator work that I don’t really want to elaborate on.”

“We want to have a closer look about how realistic it would be for Robert to drive again in a modern F1 car, and possibly into a racing context.”

“The last opportunity to at least do the test in a modern F1 car was the Hungary test, and we are taking that opportunity. But that is really something that is more medium to long term. It is not a short-term plan and it is not a short-term option to do anything with our driver line-up.”

But the Renault chief did admit, “Robert could be a candidate for 2018 but before we can really consider him as a candidate, we need to see how he will cope with cars with more downforce and with more power, because clearly the [2012] car he has been driving up until now is not representative.”

“Frankly, even if he does well, it does not mean immediately that we will decide to go for him for 2018 because there is more we need to look into.”

Palmer, who has a firm contract with Renault negotiated by his father and Former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer at the end of 2015, has struggled to keep pace with his teammate Nico Hulkenberg while suffering dogged luck during his second season in Formula 1.

But Abiteboul confirms that the team has not lost faith in the British driver, “I told him that Robert is not an immediate threat. Clearly we are looking at options for 2018, and Jo could be an option for 2018. That is in his hands.”

“What we are doing with Robert has nothing to do with what Jo does this weekend or even after the summer break. But there will not be any replacement driver in Spa, as I’ve seen stories suggesting that too.

“I can confirm that Jo will be driving in Spa and the plan is for him to drive until the end of the season. [He needs to] perform like any driver who makes it to F1 has to perform. I am not going to take away the fact that there is pressure.”

“It is a competitive environment and that is never going to go away. But it is not a short term pressure,” added Abiteboul.

Big Question: Does Jolyon deserve the faith shown in him by Renault?