Doctor says Robert Kubica faces year out of F1; three in line to step in?

Three drivers are in contention to step in for Robert Kubica at Group Lotus-backed Renault, as the Pole continues to make promising progress from his horrific weekend crash.

Renault said on Tuesday Kubica's recovery was 'encouraging', only two days after Sunday's accident at the Ronde di Ancora rally and the seven hours of surgery on his partially severed right hand that followed.

It will be the weekend before it is known whether surgery on his right arm was successful, with an initial estimation from Professor Mario Igor Rossello – involved in the operation to reconstruct Kubica's hand – that the Pole would be out of action for a year.

Renault team principal Eric Boullier had stated he expected Kubica's absence to be 'a couple of months'.

The season will start in Bahrain on March 13 – leaving the Enstone team with a decision to make over what to do with the temporary vacancy alongside Russian Vitaly Petrov.

Former McLaren driver Pedro de la Rosa had been suggested as a possible replacement should Kubica's absence be long enough for Lotus Renault to want a more experienced head alongside Petrov.

Vitantonio Liuzzi is also without a drive having been released by Force India in the winter and could be recruited on a pay as you race basis.

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Boullier confirmed on Tuesday that Liuzzi, experienced former Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld and Renault reserve driver Bruno Senna are the likely candidates, with Heidfeld understood to have talked with the team.

'We will look for Kubica's substitute; the names considered are Senna, Liuzzi and Heidfeld,' Boullier told the BBC. 'The team is close to Robert, we wait for him with open arms and we hope he can come back before the end of the season.'

Kubica will face more surgery on Thursday and up to three weeks in hospital – but he is already casting an eye over his F1 comeback according to his team.

The 26-year-old is conscious and stable in intensive care in the Santa Corona Hospital in Italy, but faces at least two further operations.

The latest statement from the Enstone team said: 'Robert's general condition has once again improved.

'According to the doctors, the levels of inflammation are in the norm considering his medical condition, and the recovery of his forearm remains encouraging.

'Robert was able to talk to his doctors and relatives. His medication makes him sleep quite a lot, but he is responding to all external stimulation. He has reacted well to the news about his condition and is ready to fight for his comeback.

'On Thursday, Robert should undergo surgery to stabilise fractures to his right shoulder and right foot.

'Three or four days later, another operation will allow his elbow fracture to be stabilised as well.'