Eric Boullier has for the first time named Pedro de la Rosa as a potential replacement for Renault’s injured regular Robert Kubica.
Another 2010 Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld, however, is in pole position for the R31 seat and will test the black and gold car this weekend.
Heidfeld, 33, was already with the team at Jerez on Thursday.
“We are in talks with de la Rosa, Liuzzi and Heidfeld,” team boss Boullier is quoted as saying by Marca sports newspaper in Spain.
Even Heidfeld’s manager Andre Theuerzeit insisted “I don’t know yet” when asked if the German driver will be racing in Bahrain.
Boullier told Auto Motor und Sport: “This year, with so much new with the car, we cannot risk going with a young driver.
“Experience will be vitally important, so there aren’t too many candidates.”
The Frenchman said Heidfeld is the favourite.
“He will be driving on Saturday and Sunday for a day and a half. If we think he is our man then he will also be at the next test in Barcelona.
“If not, then we would have to try one of the other drivers,” said Boullier, referring to the aforementioned de la Rosa and Vitantonio Liuzzi.
“Barcelona is our absolute deadline, as by then we need to know who will be racing our car.”
He explained that Bruno Senna will also drive the R31 at Jerez in order to be the main reserve driver for 2011.
“If something else happens (to the race drivers), I want a driver who has already been in the car,” added Boullier. Romain Grosjean is currently racing in the GP2 Asia series in Abu Dhabi.
“If this (Kubica’s crash) had happened in the middle of the season, then we could have taken the chance of a young driver. But we need to develop this car from scratch with someone experienced,” he insisted.
“On paper, the ideal replacement for Robert is Heidfeld,” he is quoted in French by sport24.com.
© RIF | GMM