Renault team boss Eric Boullier says the squad might not sign its second driver before the first tests of its 2010 car at Valencia in early February.
Robert Kubica is currently Renault's only confirmed 2010 driver. The team is set to launch its new R30 on Jan. 31 at the Spanish track prior to the start of testing the following morning, but Boullier has revealed that Kubica could begin testing alone as there is no guarantee that the identity of his partner will have been decided by then.
"It's not decided yet, very frankly," Boullier told AUTOSPORT when asked about Renault's driver plans. "We are still looking at several drivers available on the market. Two of them are experienced, two of them are rookies. We are now the last established team [without two drivers] and the situation is very different than in July, when you could discuss with everybody.
"So, now we have to focus on two things. First, and this is very important, we have to bring serenity to the team and bring the morale back up. Second, we are looking for sponsors. We are waiting to have all these elements in place to take our decision. We'd love to take the decision before the test. If not Robert will start the development alone."
Boullier confirmed that Nick Heidfeld, Kubica's former teammate at BMW Sauber, was among the contenders. "It would be a lie to say 'no'," he said. "Definitely, it's a different question because he has spent so many years with Robert. The question mark is if we want to put them together again or not. But he is on the list.
"Today we have a situation where there are not many drivers available on the market. I speak about drivers with Formula 1 experience and drivers who are rookies but successful enough and graduated enough to get into Formula 1. The key thing is that we do consider driver performance and driver development state."
He reiterated that drivers associated with Renault's new investment partner Gerard Lopez's Gravity organization – such as Ho-Pin Tung and Jerome D'Ambrosio – would not be given priority.
"Definitely not. Some of my comments have been used in the press against Gravity," said Boullier. "It would be crazy for me to give a privilege to Gravity drivers compared to some others. Being team principal of Renault F1 means that I have to protect the interests of Renault F1, not Gravity."
Boullier also said there was no requirement to sign a French driver for the second seat. "Nationality is completely open," he said. "It has been policy for many years that Renault and even our partner Total don't intervene with the sporting policy of the team. So, it's completely up to the team to decide what is best for the team. The driver could be French, but he could be Russian, Chinese, German, Austrian or whatever you want."
He confirmed that a Russian driver was "definitely" a possibility, with GP2 title contender Vitaly Petrov known to be chasing 2010 F1 opportunities.