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Kubica no threat to Palmer this season

NEWS STORY
27/07/2017

Among those watching Robert Kubica's first outing in a contemporary F1 car since 2011 next week, will surely be Jolyon Palmer.

For weeks, the Briton, who has yet to open his 2017 points account, has been the subject of media speculation, especially as the prospect of Kubica making a fairy-tale return to the sport becomes ever more real.

Having enjoyed two tests in a 2012 car, next Wednesday sees the popular Pole take to the Hungaroring track in the 2017 Renault. To be given the opportunity at a time when only four days of in-season testing are allowed - and two of those given over to up and coming youngsters - emphasises the fact that what the French team initially played down as a 'favour returned' could be much more.

However, team boss Cyril Abiteboul, aware of the media storm surrounding the story is keen to make clear that no matter what the outcome of Wednesday's test, Palmer's drive is not under threat.

We continue to support Jo and there is absolutely no change of plan," he told Autosport. "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," he continued, "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," he added. "It is not a short-term plan and it is not a short-term option to do anything with our driver line-up."

Still keen not to raise anyone's hopes too far, Abiteboul says that even a strong showing next week will not guarantee Kubica a 2018 race seat with the team.

"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," he said, "because clearly the 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."

In terms of Palmer, he said: "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," he insisted, "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.

"I am not going to take away the fact that there is pressure," he admitted. "It is a competitive environment and that is never going to go away. But it is not a short term pressure."

Check out our Thursday gallery from Hungary, here.

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1. Posted by @R1Racing71, 27/07/2017 10:03

"If JP Jnr's "future is in his hands" would it not be inconceivable to be given the tools for the job?"

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