Renault are reportedly considering running Robert Kubica during one of its two test days following the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of the month, as speculation about a possible return for the Pole mounts.
Kubica has already completed two test days in a 2012 Lotus E20, both of which were organised by the Renault team. He impressed in both, completing a total of 210 laps without issue, prompting him to declare that the chance of returning to Formula 1 is between 80 and 90 per cent.
Meanwhile Renault's Cyril Abiteboul said the team hadn't "seen any obvious roadblocks" that would stop him returning, but urged caution as they'd yet to see Kubica drive a 2017-spec car, which are much more physically demanding.
With Renault keen for a test to take place in their R.S.17, the post-Hungary test is the perfect opportunity for Kubica to try out a modern F1 car to properly assess whether a comeback in 2018 is a reality.
But with the rules stipulating that a team must run a young driver – a driver with fewer than three F1 races under their belt – on at least two of the four in-season test days, therein is the problem for Renault as they have already run Nico Hulkenberg during one of those days in Bahrain, and Sergey Sirotkin on the other.
That means they can only run an experienced driver on one of the two days in Hungary, with the other day going to a young driver – likely to be Sirotkin again.
Do Renault run Kubica at the expense of current full-time driver Jolyon Palmer and risk denting the Briton's confidence further amid a string of poor races and reliability troubles, which has seen him score zero points to Hulkenberg's 26? Or do they run Palmer out of fairness, despite it seeming unlikely that he'll be with the team next year?
There is however an alternative thanks to Article 10.5e of the Sporting Regulations, which says a team may carry out one additional day of testing, during the season, with a current spec car, if they're planning on substituting a current driver for another.
However that test must not take place at a current circuit on the F1 calendar and is only eligible for drivers that haven't competed in F1 during the past two seasons. Kubica would therefore qualify, having last raced in 2010.
So Renault could run Kubica outside of the Hungary in-season test during a private track day with their R.S.17, whilst still giving Palmer an outing.
If Renault were to then substitute Palmer for Kubica for the remainder of the season after that test, they wouldn't face a penalty, but if they chose to retain Palmer, they would be docked a day of pre-season testing ahead of the 2018 season as a penalty.
So to minimise the impact on Palmer's career, they could opt to run the acclimatisation later in the season, or even prior to the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, meaning the Briton would miss just one race and Kubica could try out a 2017 car and race in Abu Dhabi before making a full comeback next year.