Petrov fires Renault with fine drive to first podium

2011 Australian GP team review

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Vitaly Petrov demonstrated Renault’s potential by beating Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber to claim his first ever podium finish.

But team mate Nick Heidfeld suffered a trying weekend in his first appearance for the team.

Nick HeidfeldVitaly Petrov
Qualifying position186
Qualifying time comparison (Q1)1’27.239 (+1.696)1’25.543
Race position123
Pit stops22

Nick Heidfeld112.09196.50595.06795.66295.40595.66295.69895.36395.89595.03894.83895.03996.54695.592114.31899.68493.70793.53993.42193.82294.36193.88994.73593.58794.69493.54593.26392.84893.282114.82699.9692.87692.55293.07195.17792.89292.76592.99394.30694.97493.02692.80792.37792.61993.1292.89893.10295.08294.20495.70293.80195.49395.58995.24396.40493.85895.088
Vitaly Petrov102.83594.36393.96293.72993.72593.57393.36493.31593.35793.61593.61194.15693.69893.15293.47113.79599.86392.04591.9692.21491.84992.34191.92292.51793.57491.92991.27591.26391.10791.47991.76292.2691.80991.41391.95114.35799.6291.26590.66290.71390.86790.52590.78290.85690.82691.33390.69690.88591.16790.67190.75590.15890.65590.63190.06490.19290.1290.767

Nick Heidfeld

Heidfeld got caught up in traffic in the first part of qualifying and missed the cut for Q2 by a full second, leaving him 18th on the grid.

He made a good start and had already picked up four places as he accelerated out of the first corner.

But he was hit further around the lap, causing substantial damage to his right-hand side pod. Given the extent of the damage he was fortunate to finish the race at all.

Vitaly Petrov, Renault, Melbourne, 2011

Vitaly Petrov

Petrov gave notice of his potential when he went fifth fastest in the final practice session. He followed it up in qualifying by taking sixth despite having only one chance to set a time in Q3.

He got down the inside of Jenson Button and Alonso at the first corner and moved up to fourth.

From there on he generally had a quiet race, using a two-stop strategy to move ahead of the three-stopping Webber.

He was caught by Alonso and Webber late in the race but they didn’t have time to pass him.

Petrov became the first Russian driver to score a podium finish in F1. He said: “I’m delighted to be here on the podium, especially after the winter that we had as a team, which was very tough.

“Even during testing we didn’t really know where we were compared with the others, but we continued adding new parts to the car this weekend, and they worked pretty well.

“I made a great start today, which was probably the key for my race because it got me ahead of Alonso and Button, and I was able to run in some clean air and push hard, as well as looking after my tyres. Our two-stop strategy was clearly the right decision and we made it work

“I have to say a big thanks to everyone in the team for working so hard and for supporting my over the winter. This result is for all of us and I’m totally ecstatic.”

2011 Australian Grand Prix

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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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    83 comments on “Petrov fires Renault with fine drive to first podium”

    1. I know this is being said quite a lot, and no disrespect to Petrov either, but where would Renault be with Kubica? Further up the podium…?

      I thought Heidfield was going to be leading the team, but it looks like Petrov has really risen to the occassion. He showed flashes of good pace last year and delivered the goods this weekend. Lets hope he can put simialr excellent drives this year.

      I’m not really a fan of Petrov, but I hope he proves his worth this season. Great result

      1. Kubica would have been 3rd and Petrov 4th I think.

        1. I doubt that petrov would have been much slower than kubica. He looked on very good form all weekend, and possibly without the pressure of Robert, he is making less mistakes. If he keeps detroying Heidfeld like this, nick will be the one without a seat come mid season

        2. I’m pretty sure Heidfeld was plagued with a KERS issue, not only in qualifying but also the race. Would explain the consistantly slower lap times.

          1. Heidfeid was heavily affected by traffic in Qualifying. As for the race the damage to the side of the car was a good explanation for his pace.

            1. I think there’s no justification for his qualifying performance. He had 20 minutes to set a competitive lap time. Many drivers encountered traffic, yet managed to pull one lap together.

              I sense a repeat of 2008 coming, with Heidfeld blaming everything and everybody but himself for his inability to get his tyres up to temperature.

            2. Hard to say in Qualifying. I do not really take these excuses with traffic. They should have better planned. It was the same for everyone.

              He did have the KERS problem, but he was hardly the only one.

              For the race, good job by Renault to make the car robust enough to keep running. I bet it payed off to let it run to the end if only to see what the damage would do for temperatures inside the sidepod what whith the exhaust running in there.

          2. Dam man…. after Liuzzi here comes Nick
            Petrove was fast last year but just made rookie mistakes thats it. He would have beat Kubica here. He drove perfect on Sunday

            1. “Petrov was fast last year but just made rookie mistakes thats it.”
              – No, he wasn’t fast. Mistakes or not, he was plain slow. 1 second on average.

              “He would have beat Kubica here”?

        3. If the KERS problem in quali and sidepod damage would have happened to Kubica like it did with Heidfeld then Kubica probably wouldn’t have made it into the points either.

      2. I know this is being said quite a lot, and no disrespect to Petrov either, but where would Renault be with Kubica? Further up the podium…?

        I think its unfair to say that Kubica would thrash him, the cars are vastly different not to mention Petrov now having a year under his belt.

        and we can’t rule out the new tyres, maybe Petrov is a whizzkid on Pirelli’s?, remember 2007?, Kubica was nowhere and part of that reason is the 07 spec bridgestones hated his driving style.

        1. I think Perez is the “whizkid on Pirellis.”

      3. I know this is being said quite a lot, and no disrespect to Petrov either, but where would Renault be with Kubica? Further up the podium…?

        Who knows. Petrov showed he could beat Kubica over a weekend when he wanted to but he was nowhere near consistent enough. Perhaps this would have been one of those weekends, maybe Kubica would have destroyed him or maybe he would have hated the tyres. I have no clue but Nick beat Kubica by 9 points in their time together I think so although he ran into trouble this weekend if Petrov continues to beat him then it’ll give us a good indication of how well Vitaly really is doing.

        1. It would physcially hurt me if Petrov was scoring serious points race after race, and we keep hearing the ‘What is Robert was here’ point brought up.

          That said, I hope Robert is doing very well, and if for any reason he’s reading a Britsh Fan site about his teammate doing really rather well.. Get Well Soon Robert! :)

          1. I also hope the ‘what if Robert was here’ isn’t brought up every time cause I think Petrov has improved. Became a bit of a fan of Petrov when he kept Alsono behind him in final race who I really don’t like! Was nice to see Petrov on BBC holding the trophy and showing how much it meant to him. Would be some story to season if he became championship contender after being nearly dumped last year.

          2. It would physcially hurt me if Petrov was scoring serious points race after race, and we keep hearing the ‘What is Robert was here’ point brought up

            It would pain me too. I was in the opposite boat in 09 when every race Kimi was on the podium he was praised like mad when he only had Badoer as a team mate. Bottom line is we really don’t know how Robert would go compared to Petrov but we do have a team mate who gave Kubica a run for his money to compare the Russian against.

          3. I bet Robert will be even more determined to get back into that car asap. Boullier told Petrov during the BBC interview, that Kubica had asked him to congratulate Petrov already.

            I agree with Steph about Petrov showing he has the speed. If he keeps consistancy he might be a very solid asset for the team.

            The prospect of having both Renaults fighting for podiums sounds really good for them.
            I don’t think Kubica would have a shot at beating Hamilton. His starts are good but not as rocket like as Petrov does them. He would possibly have got past Webber and Alonso during the race, but Lewis was at least another 15 seconds away.

            1. I doubt Kubica would’ve beaten Petrov this time.

        2. Petrov showed he could beat Kubica over a weekend when he wanted to.

          Once. It only happened once. That’s not what I’d call “when he wanted to” ;)

          1. Abu Dhabi he was strong the entire weekend but Kubica’s strategy got him just ahead.

      4. I wanted to be a fan last year, but as time went on, I started to lose faith and interest in rooting for him. But this is a good sign and if he can keep up these sorts of drives, my interest is very much renewed. I really hope he’s gotten over his hump.

    2. Petrov would have screwed up and been somewhere in Q2 if Kubica was there, psychology plays a huge impact in sport.

      1. Well Bouiller mentioned in his interview that the team concentrated on that aspect of Petrov during winter, and according to him, Petrov has improved his concentration considerably.

        1. It certainly was a weakenss of Petrov and it seems to have worked.

      2. i agree on how psychology does have a huge effect on your performance in sport, we see that now with Massa in that every ‘bad’ result effects him much worse then normal, and just becomes a cycle.

    3. Very impressed with Petrov and it was great to see him so happy on the podium. If he can keep this performance up he’s gonna be great to watch. Funny thing is if Vettel had been punished for passing Button off track and Hamilton punished for the floor damage to his car, Petrov possibly may have won. Which would have been an interesting start to the season.

      1. You know I have been focusing on both points but forgot Petrov would’ve gone 1st…I actually wish it happened now.

        1. Petrov looked like a kid in a sweetshop on the podium, and was clutching his trophy with the biggest grin ive seen in F1 for some time. It was nice to see both a new person on the podium and that he’s taken a massive step forward. Good for him. He got enough speed down to get the position and looked after the car enough to ensure he kept it, nice mature drive. Now that he got that podium, I think we’l see him on the podium in a few more races this year.

          1. I agree, it was great to see someone in the press conference in total bliss, grinning ear to ear. It’s refreshing when Hamilton is sitting there in 2nd place looking completely miserable and pouting. I hope you’re right and we see more of him on the podium this year. Would be great to see him even win a race maybe…

            1. This is why I like the underdogs!

    4. Boullier doesn’t want to dig into this what if thinking and so should we. Robert is not there and Vitaly did his best drive. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll be able to see them both on track this year.

      1. Exactly. How can you overshadow this guys performance with ‘What if Kubica was here’. He isn’t, it’s painful to think about it.. everyone including Kubica needs to go forward. The future is where it’s at.

        1. It’s certainly a massive drag that Kubica’s not racing, and it’s hard not to think about where he might’ve been this weekend, but I doubt Kubica’s doing that, so neither should we. He’ll be on his feet soon, so that’s something to be excited about!

    5. That’s a rather magnificent photo of Petrov giving it a bit of a double fist pump. The full pictures positivley iconic, the lights, the Lotus printed rear wing, the golden haze an the clear blue light. Absolutley wonderfull.

      1. i love the guy. I’m so pleased he came 3rd. He thoroughly deserved his finish.

        He seems like a trully nice guy as well, and going through what he went through last year, and having to see his teammate in the condition he was in, must have been heart breaking for him. No one wants to see that.

        I have a feeling both circumstances played to his attitude and he galvanised himself to perform better.

        His race was mature, ba;anced, pacy.. what more could you ask from him. I’m delighted for him.

        Not to mention, Russia has never had a driver in F1, and much less had a driver on the podium. The Russians I know where very excited, and I’m so pleased for them too. It’s a big deal!

      2. I just opened it up and I see what you mean! Wow.

    6. I think Kubica’s absence has done Petrov good. Kubica put an enormous amount of pressure on him to perform and that’s where the mistakes crept in. He was fighting a lost cause trying to match Kubica’s pace, really.

      1. True perhaps, but I think keeping Alonso behind him in the final race at Abu Dhabi last season played a huge part in building Petrov’s confidence.

        1. True perhaps, but I think keeping Alonso behind him in the final race at Abu Dhabi last season played a huge part in building Petrov’s confidence.


    7. I think he gained some advantage from misfortune of others such as Button and Alonso. If there’s no problem with front runners, It’s hard to imagine he would get on podium more times. But I have to admit Renault car is good and Petrov drove very well in Melbourne.

      1. You gotta have the speed to be there. Heidfeld wasn’t with him all weekend. He gained the the traction off the line himself which gave him the speed to get past Button and Massa. Starting is an art in itself as Vettel showed and Hamilton lamented.

        1. Yes, he started very well while some of big name failed. but still I think he would not get on podium as easy as today.

          1. No Podium is easy, all they would all be doing it ;)

            We’ll see, they had a good car in testing, and now he’s proved to himself what he can achived, he may have unlocked his potential at the same time as unlocking the car potential.

            This year is going to be more of a racers season for all those behind the front runner. The driver I belive, will have to work harder on other tracks al la Button and Massa.

            I suppose there is a grain of hope in that statement too :)

            1. * or they would all be doing it.
              * what he can achieve
              * unlocking the cars potential
              * The driver I believe

              Holy matrimony, one day my fingers will listen to my brain, the rebelious nitwits. ;)

          2. Easy? He got a better start than some supposedly faster cars and looked after his tyres better, meaning he didn’t have to pit so many times. Furthermore, he did this in consistent weather conditions and without safety cars or any other disrupting influences. I don’t think he lucked into it at all.

            1. It was relatively easy. no one bother him after start, so he didn’t have to take any risk or pressure like Vettel and Hamilton. While Massa and Button are fighting, he gain 1s advantage from them. Yes, it’s not all luck but quite lucky.

    8. Confusing headline: Petrov fires Renault… wha!?

      1. As in ‘fires up’. Not an uncommon phrase.

        1. haha, yeah, but not exactly the pinnicle of clarity in the context of a sport when people do get fired.

          It’s all good, didn’t confuse me. Mind, I didnt get ‘Petrov’ in my brain so.. :)

          1. * I didn’t get PAST Petrov in my brain… it’s easily done!

        2. I know, I just panicked for a second because I saw the word ‘fired’ and thought the worst. Then I read it again.

        3. English is my 4th language but it really didn’t confused me… Anyhow, I’m a Cement Plant Engineer by profession and a terms fires or firing used in running the machineries (well) specially in Kiln start-up (same thing with F1 car run by an internal combustion engine. Anyway, don’t know how it is in the west.. :)

      2. In Mother Russia, Petrov fires Renault.

          1. LMAO!!! I love Mother/Soviet Russia jokes.

            1. Having dated a Russian girl for the last 18 months, I can assure they do eventually get old. The whole Russia Matushka thing, thumping the chest, countless ‘Vwoodka’ comments, and even inventing a charactor called ‘Vlad’.. I’ve been on the forefront of mocking Russian humour for sometime… :)

              It’s worth pointing out though, there’s been no ‘Mother Russia’ for 20 years since communism collapse. Though I know some serious Vodka alcaholics, so that story is still valid.

              The real humour now is how materialistic places like Moscow is, which is why cars like the Marussia are perfectly in keeping with many new Moscovites ideas that wealth is health. Even the new cafes need to look like palaces :)

              Anyways, I’ve said my piece. :)

            2. LMAO. Great joke :)

              Great drive from Petrov. No mistakes, very good pace, staying cool at the end of the race with Alonso coming closer. I believe he could go a little faster to keep Alonso at bay if needed.
              His ability to gain places at the start will be very valuable if he manages to qualify in the top ten consistently.
              Renault have prepared a great car. I think Kubica would maybe be 2 or 3 tenths faster than Petrov but it seems Petrov will become a worthy lead driver for Renault.

      3. Probably a joke on Keith’s part, after a year of “will they fire Petrov” rumours.

      4. Hardly a confusing headline! How could you read it any other way? ;)

      5. In Soviet Russia the driver fires you!

    9. you must thank Button; but I think you will kiss the wall next race

      1. Very cynical dude.

      2. To counter your passive aggresive post, I should say it was a fair 3rd place. Alonso, Webber and Button were all there and did not retire, collide or encounter any mechanical difficulties. There was no rain, meteor shower or any other force majeure.

        Alonso admitted that he should have not gone left as there was no space and Button, indeed, pushed him further outside. But that is a driver’s decision. Massa made a better decision at the start and was 5th from 8th on the grid, Petrov made a better decision and was 4th from 6th on the grid.

        Deal with it. =)

    10. IWas it just me or did the TV coverage totally miss Quick Nicks damage? I didnt see it either time i watched the race, and i saw a few people, including myself regretfully stating that he has been hopeless all weekend.

    11. good job Petrov!
      he will present beter shape on next races than Nick.
      I think so

    12. First race was very poor for Heidfeld but I still believe he will end higher than Petrov in the end of the season.

      And all this “what if Kubica was there…” of course he would fight with Vettel and Hamilton, whole car was designed just for him.

    13. Incredible stuff from Petrov. He was grasping that trophy like a kid at Christmas on the BBC F1 Forum.

      He seemed strong to me all weekend, kept himself out of trouble and had a great race that he worked hard for.

      Heidfeld was a bit of a no show but Petrov more than made up for it. He proved the car has the potential which is extremely important. I have no doubt Heidfeld will be more in the mix in the near future.

    14. A great race for him! I like the guy, i think he seems very down to earth and a genuinely nice bloke. And i don’t really see Kubica beating him that much if he had been there. Not that it is very relevant, but it seems like Kubica’s absence has taken some pressure of his shoulders and i think he has stepped up to the job. I thought Heidfeld would beat him, but Petrov just drove an amazing race. All weekend. superb performance.
      And i find it a little funny that Petrov seems to get in Alonso’s way quite a lot these days.
      Great job, and good to see a new boy on the podium. It is always a joy.

    15. It’s weird nobody mentioned that Petrov finished ahead of Alonso, again!

      1. Yep. Without any signs of panic. And that was soooo cute!

        Cheers from Przemyśl.

    16. I’m sick of all this talk of “What could Kubica have done?”, as if he could somehow challenge for victory in the car simply because he had the upper hand over Petrov all year. But let’s be perfectly honest here: the Petrov we saw in Melbourne was not the same man as we saw in 2010. He has not remained constant, which means the gap to Kubica will have closed. If Kubica were racing, it’s unlikely he would have done much better than Petrov. He might have qualified fourth or fifth at best, and he probably would have finished third, closer to Hamilton than Petrov was, but certainly not in front of him.

      But most importantly, Robert Kubica isn’t racing and won’t be for some time. It’s pointless to speculate as to where he would be on the grid and in the race, so let’s just give Petrov the respect he deserves for such a fine drive, rather than undermining him by comparing him to a team-mate who is sidelined.

      1. speculating is pointless? so all the winter talking is pointless? :)

        1. Yes, it is pointless. Robert Kubica is not going to drive the R31 any time soon. He may not drive it at all. So what good does wondering how he would have fared do? All it does is take away from Petrov’s acheivements.

      2. But let’s be perfectly honest here: the Petrov we saw in Melbourne was not the same man as we saw in 2010.

        I hate to admit it, as I was one of the one of Petrov’s critics last year (justifiably so, in my opinion), but whatever Vitaly has been doing over the winter has worked wonders. In his last two Grands Prix he’s had two very impressive performances. I hesitate to hail him as the next big thing just yet as it’s still very early days but if he keeps this form up through the first half of the season, I will no longer doubt his ability to perform at the highest level.

        1. Prisoner Monekys
          29th March 2011, 6:03

          whatever Vitaly has been doing over the winter has worked wonders

          A lot. For one, Renault had him move closer to the factory in Enstone. He was previously living in Valencia, because that’s where Barwa Addax is based. He was signed so late in the 2009-10 off-season that he had no time to relocate.

          Secondly, they wanted him to improve his English vocabulary. They specifically wanted him to learn the language of racing. He probably had the worst English on the grid last season; I saw Martin Brundle’s interview with him in Melbourne last year, and his English was very fractured. Compare that to his comments post-qualifying and post-race this year, and he’s very articulate. They no doubt had people in the team learn a little Russian as well.

          Finally, he’s got a new racing engineer for this season. Mark Slade previously ran his car, but he’s gone over to Mercedes. Renault have gotten someone new in for Petrov, so he’s had a chance to establish a bond with his engineer.

          And then, of course, there is the two-year deal with the team that offers him job security and less pressure.

          1. TheGreatCornholio
            30th March 2011, 18:43

            We all believed keeping him on was a business decision but i always felt he showed just enough potential last year to warrant another crack. I’ll admit to being surprised when they offered him a 2 year deal though! At least they’ve been clever enough to invest some time and rescources in him. Not having Robert’s shadow cast over him could be a great help and prepare him for Robert’s eventual (fingers crossed) return.

    17. The team have mixed feeling.They made a good car but the driver they expected to take the charge didn’t.They need to work on that. Good race for Petrov.My driver of the day.Just carry the momentum.

    18. Petrov has become at least as good as Kubica I think. And Renault showed that they’re able to build great F1 cars. Still, with only one driver this year, Renault won’t fight with Ferrari although Petrov finished ahead of Alonso. Perhaps Renault should make an offer for Nico…

      1. Saying that Petrov has become at least as good as Kubica is a *bit* over the top if I’m honest…

    19. Great stuff yet again from Nick Heifeld!!! :) He has the gift to bring out the best of his team mates. First Kubica, last year Kamui and now Petrov!!!! If he won’t outqualify Petrov in Malaysia I bet that we will see Brunno in a Renault Lotus cockpit as soon as Turkey….

    20. I want to know what on earth happened to Heidfeld’s car. Looks like he hit a badger, or something.

    21. Had Kubica been in the race, it is doubtful Petrov would haVe got the type of engineering support he got this weekend. Renault have always had the policy of supporting only one driver and leaving the other one to sort himself out. What they forget is that any points their drivers score, benefits the team as a whole.
      Perhaps they have learned that it pays to help both drivers to extract the most from the cars, rather than expecting a driver to prove himself before he gets the support full team support.

      1. Nick failed. Perhaps he was left alone to prove himself, don’t you think? BTW they grabbed WCC twice, right? How? They simply forget

        that any points their drivers score, benefits the team as a whole.

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