PARIS Renault driver Robert Kubica was moving his fingers again Monday after his high-speed crash in a rally and team boss Eric Boullier predicted his recovery could be much quicker than doctors first feared.
The 26-year-old Pole was operated on for seven hours when he sustained multiple fractures to his right leg and arm after hitting a church wall in Italy Sunday but may still require further surgery, said his team.
Kubica was initially put in an induced coma but awoke for a short time Monday morning.
"He was briefly woken up by the doctors," Renault said in a statement. "He was then able to talk to his relatives. He was also able to move his fingers which is encouraging for the rest of his recovery process.
"In order to avoid any physical stress Robert will be put under gentle medication in order to sleep for the next 24 hours at least. Meanwhile the doctors will decide how they will treat his elbow and shoulder fractures.
"Robert may have to undergo surgery once again for this but not for a few days," the statement read.
Sunday, doctors were worried about the functionality of Kubica's right hand and predicted he could take a year to recover but Boullier gave an upbeat message a day later.
"When you have a big crash like Robert suffered Sunday doctors always predict the worst case scenario," Boullier told the BBC on his way to visit Kubica along with fellow Renault driver Vitaly Petrov.
"He is definitely out for a couple of months. The recovery will be quicker than one year but it is a bit early to know exactly how long he will need."
Despite Boullier's optimism Kubica's surgeon said the possible recovery time could be around a year, with the next few days crucial as they wait to see if the operation was totally successful.
"The hand is warm and this means the operation went well," surgeon Mario Igor Rossello told reporters at the Santa Corona hospital near Genoa.
"We need at least six days to check if the circulation of the blood in the limb responds as it should."
With testing already under way in Spain and the first race of the season in Bahrain on March 13, Kubica's Lotus-backed team will have to find a replacement for one of the most popular and competitive drivers on the grid.
The team's official third drivers are Brazilian Bruno Senna and France's Romain Grosjean.
Senna competed last season for the HRT team while Grosjean started seven races for Renault in 2009.
Neither has scored a point in Formula One and media reports have quickly focussed on Germans Nick Heidfeld and Nico Hulkenberg as possible long-term alternatives, although the latter is contracted to Force India as a reserve.
"We are already starting to think and work on a contingency plan," added Boullier who strongly defended Kubica's love of rallying in his spare time despite the risks.
"We don't know yet, we are actually waiting to know how long it will take because if it is a short-term replacement we will take one of our reserve drivers. If he has to be longer we may have to consider different options."
Goodwill messages have poured in for the 26-year-old, a race winner in Canada in 2008 with BMW-Sauber.
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso visited him late Sunday and the Internet and Twitter have been awash with support.
"I am still upset by the news about Robert Kubica. It is shocking...just terrible, " seven-times champion Michael Schumacher said on his website (www.michael-schumacher.de).
(Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann and Alan Baldwin. Editing by Tony Jimenez)