Vitaly Petrov to become Russia’s first F1 driver with Renault in 2010

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Vitaly Petrov will become Russia's first F1 driver

Vitaly Petrov will race for Renault in 2010 and becomes Russia’s first ever F1 driver.

The 25 year-old, who has spent the last three-and-a-half seasons racing in GP2, was announced as the team mate for Robert Kubica by Renault at the launch of their R30 today.

The team also confirmed Jerome D’Ambrosio and Ho-Pin Tung will be its test drivers. The pair are both run by the Gravity management company owned by Gerard Lopez, who bought control of the Renault team over the winter.

Russia’s first F1 driver

Russia is not known for having a thriving national racing scene and Petrov won several races in low-level competitions – including the 2002 Lada Cup.

He pursued his racing career by competing in Formula Renault championships in Europe before moving up to the Euroseries 3000 in 2006. He placed third overall, with one win.

That year he also moved up to GP2, spending the second half of the season with DPR. He joined Campos the following year and remained with them for three seasons, which is unusual for a driver in F1’s feeder series.

Experience has served him well and he achieved better results with each passing season – 13th overall in 2007, seventh in 2008 and second last year.

It’s quite appropriate that Petrov’s F1 drive should be announced at Valencia because both its racing tracks have been kind to him in recent years. He scored his first GP2 win at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in 2007, and won on the street track in 2008 and 2009.

If he’s failed to capture the imagination of those looking for a future F1 star it’s perhaps because he’s not rocketed through the championship the way Lewis Hamilton and last year’s champion Nico Hulkenberg did – though they both benefitted from being born in countries with a much stronger racing heritage than Russia has.

Petrov will be the first Russian to race in F1. However the country has already had an F1 team, in the form of Midland Group, which took over Jordan in 2005 and ran it as Midland F1 in 2006 before selling it to Dutch car manufacturer Spyker.

Vitaly Petrov in GP2 – pictures

Read more: 2010 F1 drivers and teams

Images (C) GP2 Seriez/Alastair Staley, Glenn Dunbar, Charles Coates and Andrew Ferraro.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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45 comments on “Vitaly Petrov to become Russia’s first F1 driver with Renault in 2010”

  1. Good for him!

    1. Bad for Quick Nick.

      1. Bad for JV, too.

  2. About time he get’s a seat.

    Only 2 seats left. Silly Season’s almost over!!!

    1. CounterStrike
      31st January 2010, 15:48

      Silly Season is actually over. USF1 & Campos are unlikely to field their cars this year if Bernie is to be believed.

      1. The same Bernie who said there would be a medal-system last year? :D

        Don’t feed the troll, he just gets mad when he isn’t in the news for a week.

  3. CounterStrike
    31st January 2010, 15:46

    Oh! i was hoping for Nicolas Prost. French media fail :(

    1. Sadly, Nicholas Prost isn’t even in the driver programme Gravity released. That’s weird, because I’ve heard talks about him possibly being a reserve driver. They have made Jan Charouz a reserve driver though, which is almost equally weird, since he has no connection to either Renault or Gravity to my knowledge.

  4. A stable 3-year period of regular improvement is surely something that we should be looking for in an F1 driver’s history – relying on plucking a young name out of the grid early because he’s touted as the “the next” Senna/Schumacher/Raikkonen/Alonso/Hamilton only works for the once-in-a-generation driver that actually crops up. The rest of the time, it’s a recipe for Souffle de Grosjean. The principle that a “young driver” should actually learn their trade isn’t a bad one.

  5. The real reason why Renault have signed Vitaly Petrov can be expressed in visual terms- eg the huge big spaces on the sidepods which are just begging for some Roubles.

    I find it hard to get to excited about Petrov. 2nd in GP2 is a good achievement, but the fact that it took him for seasons to get there is worrying. I fear he will be destroyed by Kubica this season- although I hope I’m wrong.

    1. KilledByDeath
      31st January 2010, 16:34

      Other gp2 champions usually drove for ART, and ART was usually suspected of “broadening the rules”. Just a thought :P

      1. Glock and Pantano weren’t driving for ART. I haven’t heard anything about cheating by ART, do you have any proof to your claims?

        1. I seem to remember in 2005, when Nico Rosberg won the title for ART, there was a complaint that they’d mounted their steering column differently to their rivals. I can’t remember how it was resolved but this was in the first year of the championship with a new car so it’s not surprising one team might find an advantage by doing something the others hadn’t.

          1. KilledByDeath
            1st February 2010, 0:45

            Well there was 2008 dispute over ART rear wings, plus ART had best race engineers and technical dept. most of the time. What i’m saying is Petrov did quite well, considering he wasn’t driving for ART.

    2. Prisoner Monkeys
      31st January 2010, 22:53

      2nd in GP2 is a good achievement, but the fact that it took him for seasons to get there is worrying.

      Think of it this way, Ned: Hulkenberg and di Grassi have always been up the front, but Petrov has had to work his way up. That demonstrates and ability to improve upon his performance, something we haven’t seen from Hulkenberg or di Grassi.

      1. Hulkenberg actually did improve. The first 4 or 5 races he was practially nowhere and people gave him a year to get used to the circumstances in GP2. The fact that it takes Petrov 4 years to achieve the second place and Hulkenberg about 2 months to become the best GP2 driver in the short history of GP2 says it all. Perhaps a bit unfair to compare him to the incredible Hulk but still!

        I think it’s a bit harsch on Grosjean. He was not a less driver than Petrov was in GP2, in fact Hulkenberg called him his greatest rival there, he just had to cut his season short in order to replace that fraud Piquet. Last year he didn’t really have a chance to prove himself since even the greatest driver on the grid, Fernando Alonso, was struggling with the terrible car renault delivered and stopped developping the car 4 races before the end! It’s a bit unfair, perhaps he can get another chance at US F1 or so!

  6. Considering all the rumours this isn�t really a surprise. Grosjean looks to have been ditched totally, not even a seat as a test driver. I suppose that is the risk the 2009 replacement drivers ran, what with no testing.

    1. Yes, a bit harsh for Grosjean to be dumped completely. He needs to go back to GP2 and try and follow in Glock’s footsteps.

  7. Jerome D�Ambrosio and Ho-Pin Tung are test drivers… But didn’t they say Gravity drivers wouldn’t get priority? But perhaps I shouldn’t be so cynical- Ho Pin Tung has always looked worthy of an F1 seat since finishing 18th in the GP2 championship in 2008…

    Also, that makes a very international looking line up- they have drivers from China, Russia, Poland and Belguim. A communist, two former communists, and a Brussel Sprout (to be stereotypical!).

    1. Ho-Pin Tung is in fact Netherlands born and bred though I believe he races with a Chinese licence – so very much NOT a communist I suspect!

      1. That makes for two pairs of drivers from countries that gain independence from each other (Belgium from the Netherlands, Poland from Russia)

    2. Well, the only communism left in China anyway is its worst form of repression and dictatorship… nothing from the old dream of equality and dignity is there anymore…

    3. Any other national stereotypes you wanna roll out there Ned?

      1. Yep… apparently they have another test driver from the Czech Republic… I bet he’s as slow as a rusty old Skoda!!

        (Sorry Czech Republic, I’m sure you’re much better than Slovakia!)

        1. Hehe Ned, you have a wicked sense of humour! :P

    4. More nationalistic stereotypes. Not surprised reading it hear.

  8. Even if Petrov has spent a long time in GP2, at least it seems he’s finally developed. And at least hr actually competed in it, unlike Jaime A.

    1. KilledByDeath
      31st January 2010, 17:19

      What he said.

  9. I like Petrov – he’s always quick in the rain and also on street circuits. But hard to believe he’s never turned a wheel of an F1 car before. Its going to be a steep learning curve.

  10. This guy will outperform both DelaRosa and the guy signed by USF1.

  11. Excellent, and judging by the polls here a very popular decision.

  12. Good for the sport, but I think Sato would have been better.

  13. HounslowBusGarage
    31st January 2010, 20:14

    I’m pleased for Petrov. But once again, it shows how stupid it is not to have some kind of testing opportunity or regime for these less-experienced drivers to work with before they get signed for a full season.
    I don’t know much about Anthony Hamilton’s initiative, but it might address this problem well.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      31st January 2010, 23:04

      Um, all the teams get 15,000km of testing before Bahrain. It’s unlikely Renault will split that figure between their drivers because they’ll need Kubica to develop the car, so let’s say that Kubica will get 10,000km and Petrov 5,000km. As a Grand Prix is 300km in length, Petrov will have to wait until Suzuka before he’s done more competitive kilometres than testing kiloemteres. And that’s not counting the laps he’ll get in during Friday and Saturday practice sessions. It might not sound like much and he could probably do with 10,000km before his first race, but it’s not like he’s going in completely blind.

      1. Any idea if they could run him on an R27 with GP2 tyres to get him up to speed?

        1. Prisoner Monkeys
          1st February 2010, 1:46

          No. The would have to request it of the FIA, who would say no. Besides, the R27 is a completely different car to the R30 given the rule changes leading into 2009 and again into 2010. I do believe it still uses traction control …

  14. Prisoner Monkeys
    31st January 2010, 23:50

    As I said in the other thread, I think this is a step in the right direction. I think that in order to be a true orld Championship, Formula 1 needs to have drivers, teams and races in all of the major geopolitical regions, and until last night, the former USSR and Africa were the two that remained untouched. I’m not advocating driver decisions based on nationality, here; rather, I’m saying tha if Formula 1 can get talent from somewhere it hasn’t before, then that can only be a good thing.

    From the sounds of things, Renault are impressed with him; they weren’t just after his money. Boullier and Lopez have said that some drivers were offering up to twice as much as Petrov, and given last year’s debacle, I think they have a lot of incentive to avoid being caught out in even the smallest of lies. I’m curious as to whether Petrov will actually bring sponsors, since he said his it was his father and his father’s friends who raised the money for him, though Petrov seemed somewhat short in the interviews when the questions were about his father. I think a lot of people will start asking questions about what Alexander Petrov does for a living (no doubt there will be rumours he’s tight with the Solntsevskaya bratva or the vory v zakone), though I’m prepared to write this off as simply a cultural thing – if a Russian decides that s/he doesn’t want to talk about something, then s/he won’t talk about it. At least not until they get to know you better, so it’s little wonder Petrov is short with an interviewer he’s never met before. If you look at some of his other response to questions, he’s really quite talkative.

  15. Final nail in the coffin for Quick Nick.

    1. That’s what you get for being reliable but unimpressive… he outscored Raikkonen in 2001 and Massa in 2002 when they were his team-mates (drivers who scored, in total, 29 grand prix wins and 1 world championshop between them), but never got the big chance… or, worst, almost got it twice, in 2005, with Williams, and in 2008, with BMW, and it looks like he’ll leave Formula 1 with eight second places and no victories…

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        1st February 2010, 3:23

        It’s also what you get for putting all your eggs in one basket. As far as I know, Nick Heidfeld had his heart set on a Mercedes drive and didn’t really open negotiations with any other teams until after Schumacher was confirmed. If he’d moved a bit faster or had a fall-back plan, he might have a drive by now. Because as it stands, Campos are up the proverbial creek and Peter Windsor is no fan of his.

  16. Beginning of the end for Renault or Genii or whatever. No longer a contender. Poor Kubica, poor Heidfeld, poor F1 fans. With half the cockpits being filled by 19 yr olds with rich daddies F1 ceases to be the top flight of motorsport. Would have been better off going with 3 cars per team like Luca said.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      1st February 2010, 7:43

      According to Lopez, some drivers were offering twice as much as Petrov. And of all the team, Renault haev the most incentive to not lie given what happened last year.

  17. Good luck to him and lets hope he is better out of the box than some of the more recent drivers to join F1…

  18. I have to admit, I know very little about Petrov. Its a brave decision for Renault to make, especially if the team are under the internal financial pressure rumours would have us believe. If I am not mistaken, Bernie Ecclestone has been suggesting that there maybe a Russian round of the F1 championship in unpcoming years, but I doubt this had much bearing on Renault’s decision. Its sad for Grosjean, who was really drowned by the expectation laid upon his shoulders, and for Nick Heidfeld, who surely now must be doubting his future in F1.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      1st February 2010, 22:23

      He’s been working on the concept of a Russian Grand Prix for nearly thirty years now. He first floated the idea of a Grand Prix of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics back in 1982; it was going to be a street circuit in Moscow, the Monaco of communism. It was a very simple design and quite fast, but some of the corners looked very demanding. But it never worked out. Bernie still wanted a race in Eastern Europe, and that’s how we got the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Russians tried again with Nagatino Island in 1998, but that fell through. Still, there are plans for circuits at Domodedovo, Pulkovkoe, Chekrizovo and the Moscow Raceway, so it could become a reality soon.

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