Renault are ready to reveal Russian Vitaly Petrov as their second driver, alongside Robert Kubica, for the 2010 season.
He apparently had his seat fitting in Enstone yesterday, and signed his contract today.
The Russian is known to have around €10m in backing from sponsors such as Gazprom and the Russian government, who are keen to have their first Russian in Formula 1.
It seems, however, that there was more than sponsor backing that may have helped this deal. Gazprom, his main sponsor, is owned (50%) by the Russian government. It is understood that there was a deal between Gazprom, the Russian government, and Petrov, regarding the Renault seat. To give you an idea of how powerful Gazprom is when it comes to these negotiations, their little-known chairman from 2000 to 2008 was Dmitry Medvedev, who then became president of Russia. Why Gazprom is so interested in Petrov, I don’t know. However, it is rumoured that the Russian government and Bernie Ecclestone were (supposedly) looking for a Russian Grand Prix in the future.
But back to Petrov. He finished 2nd in the GP2 championship last year, behind Nico Hulkenberg. He may be good, but he certainly is nowhere near as good as Hulkenberg, in my opinion. Having said this, it’s good to see him given a chance. Kubica will almost certainly beat him, but that’s not the point, as it will be his first year, and it’s only an indicator of how good he will be in the future.
Also, I hear that he will be a great addition to the paddock. Unlike so many other PR robots in F1, Petrov speaks his mind and has a wicked sense of humour.
Petrov will probably be unveiled tomorrow, at Renault’s launch of their 2010 R30 car in Valencia.