The 2011 Formula One season starts in just over 30 days, and it looks like Robert Kubica will be watching from the sidelines. The Polish driver was seriously injured in a crash during Sunday’s Andora Rally. Details are sketchy, but it looks like Kubica lost control of his Skoda on wet roads, then drove into the end of a crash barrier. The barrier came through the footwell, causing serious injury to Kubica’s right arm and right leg. It took rescuers some two hours to free Kubica from the wreckage before he could be airlifted to the nearest hospital, and doctors were concerned about the amount of blood loss Kubica had suffered at the scene. Following surgery, his doctors were cautiously optimistic, but warned that the injuries to his right arm were severe enough that the loss of function and mobility may be permanent. The best prognosis that Kubica can hope for is an eventual return to racing, but it’s highly unlikely that will be in the 2011 F1 season.
So where does that leave Kubica’s team, Lotus Renault? Bruno Senna was recently signed as a test driver and back up driver, but there’s speculation that Kubica’s seat won’t automatically go to Ayrton Senna’s nephew. Lotus Renault also has Romain Grosjean, Fairuz Fauzy, Ho-Pin Tung and Jan Charouz under contract, but none have the kind of seat time in F1 competition that Lotus wants. That leaves the door open to some of F1’s free agents, including Nick Heidfeld and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Former world champion Jacques Villenueve would love another shot at F1, but the driver has raced a Formula car since 2006 and is, at best, long shot.