Lotus Renault driver Robert Kubica is making steady progress recovering from horrific injuries sustained in a rally car crash prior to the start of the 2011 F1 season.

If that’s the good news (and it’s good news, indeed), here’s the bad news: Kubica has advised the Lotus Renault team that he won’t be ready for the start of the 2012 F1 season.

Despite making impressive strides in his rehabilitation, Kubica has not regained the strength in his hand and elbow necessary to make him competitive at the highest levels of the sport.

Lotus Renault remains prepared to work with Kubica on his return to Formula 1, offering up simulator testing, track time and a full crew when the Polish driver believes he is ready to begin his comeback.

Kubica is working on a return by the start of the 2013 F1 season, and is currently in the process of negotiating a contract with Lotus Renault beyond next year. That leaves Vitaly Petrov and (possibly) Bruno Senna to drive for Lotus Renault in 2012.

The final F1 race of the 2011 season is this Sunday’s Grand Prix of Brazil, and this much is certain: a lot can happen in between Sunday and next year’s March 18 season opener in Australia.