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Vitaly Petrov Profile

Monday 1st February 2010



Vitaly Petrov Profile

Vitaly Petrov Profile

Vitaly Petrov made history in 2010 when he became Formula One's first-ever Russian driver.

He was dropped by Lotus Renault GP after two difficult seasons and looked to be on his way out of the sport, but his money men came to his rescue and helped him to secure a seat at Caterham for the 2012 campaign.

Hailing from Vyborg in Russia, he first caught the racing bug when he drove a Lada Zhiguli with his father, who has provided the financial backing behind Petrov's career.

However, he was denied the traditional route into Formula One as there were no go-karting tracks in Russia. Instead, he started off in touring cars in his homeland before moving to Europe where he first made a name for himself in Formula Renault before moving on to Formula 3000.

From there it was the GP2 series for the Russian racer, who impressed many in the Formula One paddock when he claimed six race victories on his way to second place in the 2009 Championship behind former Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg.

His talent earned him a one-year contract with Renault, with the deal sweetened for the F1 team by the millions he brings with him. He reportedly paid £13million - seven percent of Renault's 2010 budget - for his race-seat.

With the stigma of a paying driver hanging over his head, Petrov was always going to find it difficult to prove that his talent is equal to his finances.

His introduction into the sport was brutal as he suffered three DNFs - two mechanical and one spin - in his first three races. He picked up his first points in the fourth race in China with a seventh-place finish, but it was downhill after that again, much to the disappointment of his bosses at Renault as team-mate Robert Kubica was fighting for podiums at the front end of the grid.

The powers that be made it clear that unless he started to improve he would not be offered a new contract. Improve the Russian did and he started a career-best seventh on the grid in Hungary, which put him ahead of Kubica for the first time, and finished in fifth. A ninth place followed in Belgium, but it was back to bad habits after that with no points and two retirements in the next five races.

The wolves were truly out and most people were convinced they wouldn't see the Russian on the grid in 2011. However, he kept his best for the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi. Sixth place might not sound like a good result, but he held Ferrari's title chasing Fernando Alonso at bay for most of the race. He was superb in defence and Alonso's inability to pass him probably cost him the Championship in the end. That helped the Russian to finish 13th in the Drivers' Championship with 27 points.

Despite changes at the top with Lotus buying a stake in the team, his bosses opted to retain him for another season.

He had extra responsibility on his shoulders after his experienced team-mate Kubica was ruled out for the season following a horror smash during a rally in the off-season. The team opted to partner him with veteran Nick Heidfeld for the first half of the campaign.

The added pressure clearly had the desired effect as he started brilliantly, qualifying a career-best sixth in the season-opening race in Australia and claiming his first podium finish with a P3.

While his team-mate Heidfeld claimed a podium in Malaysia, Petrov exited the race in dramatic style. Having run wide, he bounced his car over the grass and a gully sent it airborne, smashing the steering column as it landed back on the track and slewing to a halt by a 150m braking board.

The Russian returned to the points in China with a ninth-place finish and followed it up with a P8 in Malaysia. He was then involved in a heavy shunt in Monaco and was taken to hospital for tests, but was given an all clear. There were no after effects from the crash in Canada as he impressed with a P5 finish in Montreal.

The new restrictions on blown diffusers prompted a Renault slump and Petrov found it increasingly difficult to pick up points. His case was not helped by the fact that the team opted to replace Heidfeld with the more inexperienced Bruno Senna midway through the season.

Petrov and Renault never regained the spark they had earlier in the season and he picked up only five points during the final eight races of the season to finish 10th in the standings with 37 points.

With the Enstone squad opting to lure Kimi Raikkonen back to F1 for the 2012 campaign, it was a straight fight between Petrov and Romain Grosjean for the final seat.

The axe fell on the Russian and his F1 career looked over before it even started. However, after a few nervous months, his sponsors came up with the necessary finances to land him a seat at Caterham where he will partner Heikki Kovalainen.

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