Vitaly Petrov is closing in on securing the second seat at Renault in F1 2010 in a move that would make him the first Russian ever to graduate to the top flight, sources close to the GP2 Series race-winner claim.
Renault F1 – under new management now following the Enstone-based outfit's majority 75 per cent sale to Luxembourg-based investment firm Genii Capital late last year – has a shortlist of five drivers to choose from to occupy the available cockpit alongside former Canadian Grand Prix winner Robert Kubica for the forthcoming campaign, team principal Eric Boullier has confirmed.
Petrov – who finished as runner-up to Williams new boy Nico Hülkenberg in GP2 with Barwa Addax last year – has been linked with both Renault and troubled F1 2010 newcomer Campos Meta 1, and had also been mooted as a possible Sauber driver prior to today's announcement that long-time McLaren-Mercedes test driver Pedro de la Rosa has been given the nod to join Kamui Kobayashi at Hinwil this season [see separate story – click here
The 25-year-old – who triumphed in Lada Revolution Russia (2005), Formula 1600 Russia (2005) and the Russian Lada Cup prior to making a global name for himself in the F1 feeder formula – is known to be attractive to teams for the potential sponsors he could likely bring in from his homeland, with the world's largest country remaining largely untapped in terms of financial backing for motorsport.
“We are currently in negotiations with the Renault team, and everything is at the stage of finalising,” a spokesperson for Petrov told Infox.ru
. “No contract with Renault or any other F1 team has so far been signed. One thing can be said with certainty – the negotiations must be completed before 1 February, when testing begins.”
Should the Vyborg native indeed conclude a deal with Renault, it could well spell the end of the F1 career of Nick Heidfeld, similarly linked with the team after being rejected by former employer Sauber for 2010. It would also dash the comeback hopes of ex-Super Aguri ace Takuma Sato.