Robert Kubica’s crash in the Ronde di Andora Rally earlier today has quickly made headlines in various motoring and motorsport websites. The crash occurred just 4.6 kilometers into the Italian rally and his Formula 1 team, Lotus Renault has confirmed that he is suffering from multiple fractures to his right arm, leg and hand and is currently undergoing surgery at the Santa Corona Hospital.

Although it is not life threatening, Kubica’s injuries may well prevent him from taking part in at least the first few races of the 2011 season, which begins on 13th March in Bahrain. With such fractures, Kubica may even find it hard to nestle himself into the cockpit of a Formula 1 car, let alone race in one for many laps and endure all the G forces. If the fractures are minor, the team would have at least stated so in its second press release.

If Kubica doesn’t recover in time, Lotus Renault will have to temporarily replace him. The team’s third driver list is made up by Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean. Senna raced for HRT in 2010, which means he has one year of race experience in Formula 1. Romain Grosjean has slightly less race experience, after replacing Nelson Piquet Jr in 2009 in Renault starting from the European Grand Prix.

Other reserve drives for the team include Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy, Ho-Pin Tung and Jan Charouz. None of these drivers have raced in Formula 1 before. It is even more difficult to utilize test or reserve drivers for races these days especially with very limited testing. Furthermore, Lotus Renault’s second driver and Kubica’s team mate, Russian Vitaly Petrov also has one year of race experience under his belt.

So if things really go bad, as in if Kubica is sidelined at least for a couple of races, would it be a good idea for Lotus Renault to have two drivers, both with one year of race experience each to pilot their cars? Probably not. If so, who can the team look for?

Lets look at several potential options. It would be wise for the team to hire a driver who has both the experience and has recently raced a Formula 1 car. Nick Heidfeld seems to be a good candidate. He has taken part in 174 races and has been regarded as a quick and consistent driver. He started off his Formula 1 career with Prost in 2000 before joining Sauber the following year. Then in 2004 he raced for Jordan before moving to Williams in 2005 and then to BMW Sauber from 2006 until 2009, when BMW quit Formula 1.

He was signed up as Mercedes GP’s reserve driver in 2010 and subsequently became the official Pirelli test driver later that year. He also took part in the final five races of the 2010 season with Sauber, after replacing Pedro de la Rosa who failed to make a good impression along side team mate Kamui Kobayashi. The German has scored 225 points and went up to the podium twelve times. The 33 year old was even linked to a Renault drive for the 2011 season. Also, one should not forget that Heidfeld has more experience with the new Pirelli tires, compared to the current contenders.

The other driver that could fit the bill is Nico Hulkenberg, who raced for Williams in 2010. Currently a reserve driver for Force India, Hulkenberg scored eleven points in his rookie year and even scored a pole position in Brazil. However just like Lotus Renault’s Bruno Senna, he also has one year of race experience, but well justified with his performance. Other available drivers include ex-HRT driver Karun Chandhok, ex-Virgin driver Lucas di Grassi and ex-Force India driver Vitantonio Liuzzi.

The first two have one year of race experience each but Liuzzi has more, after starting off with Red Bull in 2005. He then raced for Toro Rosso in 2006 and 2007 before racing in five races for Force India in 2009 and a full season in 2010. Japanese driver Sakon Yamomoto also has spent some time in the cockpit, after scoring a race seat in several rounds in 2007 with Spyker. Following two years of absence from the sport, he took part in several races with HRT in 2010.

Christian Klien also could be a potential candidate. His Formula 1 debut was with Jaguar in 2004 before racing for Red Bull in 2005 and 2006. After three years of testing with Honda (2007) and BMW Sauber (2008 and 2009), he returned to the race seat in 2010, replacing Yamamoto for three races. It would also be great to see 2007 Champion Kimi Raikkonen in a Formula 1 seat, but who knows? He was rumored to drive for Renault this year but obviously that wasn’t the case. My bet? Nick Heidfeld would be a strong candidate.