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Hulkenberg and Liuzzi keen to step in for Kubica

ESPNF1 Staff
February 8, 2011 « HRT releases first images of new car | »

Nico Hulkenberg and Tonio Liuzzi have expressed an interest in replacing Robert Kubica at Renault this season, now that it looks certain he will not make the start of the season.

Kubica is facing a long recovery after suffering severe arm injuries in a rally accident last weekend. Although the prognosis is still unknown, a full recovery time is estimated to be somewhere between five months and a year.

Hulkenberg has just signed a contract to test for Force India this season, but a member of his management team said he would be open to an approach from Renault.

"We have a contract with Force India and we will not take the initiative to contact Renault," Timo Gans told the Daily Mail. "If Renault should contact us we will start thinking about that, but we are not doing that yet. Hopefully Robert gets well soon."

Meanwhile, Tonio Liuzzi, who lost his Force India race drive this year despite having a contract, said he would consider th opportunity but his friend's health comes first.

"A lot of people talked about this: not the team, but a lot of journalists," he told 422race.com. "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."

Renault has Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna as reserve drivers, but team boss Eric Boullier has admitted he will weigh up other options. Ex-Renault boss Flavio Braitore, who visited Kubica in hospital on Monday, thinks a more experienced pair of hands is needed.

"The difference is that it is not going to be for one race but probably all of the first half of the season. So it has to be an experienced driver. The team has come forward compared to last year, so they will need someone who knows how to race at the front."

He said Kubica was in high spirits considering his ordeal.

"With yesterday's news and the medical bulletins, I was worried," Flavio Briatore told the ANSA news agency. "I was prepared for the worst. But when I saw him we even shared a joke and he asked about my son. I called [Fernando] Alonso and Bernie [Ecclestone] and told them I think they will see him on the track before the end of the season.

"He's a great and tough guy and I am sure he will come back soon. Considering the terrible accident he suffered, he's ok. We didn't talk about the accident but about Formula One and about a quick return. Considering his will and his fitness, I would bet he will come back within five or six months."

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