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Mat Coch writes:
Although its contract with Formula One expires at the end of 2013, Pirelli boss Paul Hembery believes the Italian company should aim to provide drivers with a stepping stone in to the sport.
Not constrained by the same restrictions imposed on the teams, Pirelli conducts frequent in-season tests as it refines and develops its tyres. This year alone it has conducted a number of development sessions with a view towards its 2013 rubber, working at circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps and, most recently, Barcelona.
It makes for an attractive alternative for drivers unable to secure a race seat proper, with most (team) test drivers forced to sit out large parts of the year. However with Pirelli test drivers are able to take a more active role, and the Italian firm has an established a track record with its test drivers finding a race berth within the sport; Nick Heidfeld, who tested for the company during 2010, returned to the grid with Renault last season while his replacement, Pedro de la Rosa, now races with HRT. Indeed, if rumours are to be believed Pirelli's current tester, Jaime Alguersuari, will be back on the grid for 2013.
"We want him to get back in to F1, we think he deserves to be in F1," said Paul Hembery when faced with the prospect of losing Alguersuari. "The work he's done with us will put him in a very good situation for any team for next year.
"Also I think it's helped develop him as a driver. Working on tyre testing is one of the more detailed jobs that you do," he added.
Should Alguersuari move on Pirelli is not short of potential replacements. "We'd probably like to do something similar (to what we've done with Alguersuari, de la Rosa and Heidfeld); get a driver that maybe we can help either get back in to Formula One if they've dropped out or maybe get an up and coming driver that we can test and train and take in to Formula One."
An obvious candidate is Robert Kubica, who has been out of the sport since being injured in a rally crash early last year. The Pole recently made his motor racing return by competing in a number of minor Italian rallies as his rehabilitation continues, prompting suggestions that he could still return to Formula One.
"If, physically, he could get back in maybe doing a year with us would put him in a good situation to come back in in 2014," says Hembery. "That would be wonderful if we could do that but we want to continue our success level of getting people in.
"We're more likely to work with Robert in rallying rather than Formula One at the moment," he admitted. "I don't know if he's able to do it at the moment but it's that type of person.
"It needs to be, after a Formula One drive, the best drive in the world because we get you in to Formula One.
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