Renault juggles F1 driver bids for 2012

Singapore: Formula One team Renault says it has more than four drivers in the frame as it considers its 2012 lineup and waits to see if its star Robert Kubica can come back from career-threatening injuries.

Kubica has missed the entire 2011 season after serious injuries in a preseason rally crash and team chairman Gerard Lopez said Renault will need to make a call on his comeback before taking decisions on the lineup.

"Right now we have a commitment to Robert," Lopez said at the Singapore Grand Prix. "He has done amazing things for the team. We know what he is capable of and any team would take him if he is capable of delivering the same thing.”

"Our commitment is to try and see if he can come back and we will wonder about anything else afterwards."

Aside from Kubica, other candidates are current pairing Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna plus newly-crowned GP2 champion Romain Grosjean.

"And more," Lopez said. "There`s people that are interested just in case."

Lopez was irritated by suggestions that Petrov and Senna`s significant personal sponsorships — from Russia and Brazil respectively — would help in their bids to retain their current drives.

"Whenever they get called pay driver I actually feel bad for them," Lopez said. "I find it disrespectful to those guys."

Schumacher to shine: While many are wondering when Michael Schumacher will pull the pin on his so far underwhelming F1 comeback, Mercedes boss Norbert Haug has tipped the 42-year-old German to not only stay on, but to significantly improve.

Mercedes motorsport chief Haug said the team is right behind its driver pairing of Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.

"We are very satisfied with the drivers we have," Haug said. "We want to climb up the ladder with the combination that we have."

Seven-time world champion Schumacher has yet to finish on the podium in his two seasons back in the sport, but Haug believes he will surprise those who doubted the wisdom of a comeback.

"It is a little strange to say Michael will create surprises because he won everything, he won more than anybody else, but believe me the better our car goes the more he will deliver and he is fully committed," Haug said.

"He is an excellent starter, still a fantastic racer and the more we improve our technical package, the more he will deliver."

Singapore limbo: The Singapore Grand Prix may be one of the most praised and best-attended on the F1 calendar, but its future remains in limbo while contract negotiations go on between local organizers and F1 management.

Next year`s race is the last under the current contract, and Singapore`s trade and industry minister Teo Ser Luck said several factors have to be weighed up before committing to a new deal.

"It has brought value to Singapore, especially in the motor sports scene," the minister was quoted as saying by the Singapore daily Today. "But the considerations have to be more than that.

"So whether it is economic or social, we have to examine each of the factors, which is the stage where we are at now."

Lotus no more: Lotus is considering a name change ahead of next season, raising the prospect of F1 going from having two teams that claimed the historical name, to none.

The `green and gold` Lotus, run by Air Asia boss Tony Fernandes could change the name to Caterham — a sports-car company purchased earlier this year and which currently serves as sponsor to the F1 team.

Chief executive Riad Asmat said a change was possible.

"We are still Team Lotus but as my shareholders have mentioned, we are open to anything and we will see how it progresses from this point," Asmat said.

The team could also shift some of its operations from the current base in Norfolk on England`s east coast to `Motorsports Valley` between London and the Midlands.

"As a team that is growing and progressing, we need to have a look at how to get more efficiencies out of the team and one of the main areas is to be in the motorsports belt of the UK," Asmat said. "It is something we are looking into and when the time is right we will make the necessary announcement."

Group Lotus — owned by the Malaysian government carmaker Proton — is the naming-rights sponsor of rival F1 team Renault. However there is speculation that too may change before next season.

Bureau Report

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