F1 2010 rookie Vitaly Petrov has opined that the reason his Renault predecessor Romain Grosjean was not retained into the forthcoming campaign was due to his 'mistake' in joining the grand prix grid midway through last season – an opportunity the Russian similarly had, but which he conversely declined.
Petrov will make history by becoming the first of his countrymen ever to compete in the top flight when he partners former Canadian Grand Prix-winner Robert Kubica at the newly-owned and restructured Enstone-based outfit this year – but the 25-year-old acknowledges that the berth could have gone the way of his former Barwa Addax GP2 Series team-mate, who acted as Renault's test driver prior to his promotion in-place of the sacked Nelsinho Piquet from the European Grand Prix in Valencia onwards.
However, with the R29 proving to be anything but on the pace season-long – witness the failure of double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso in the sister car to do any better than a sole rostrum finish in Singapore – Grosjean was able to make little impression, qualifying no higher than twelfth and taking the chequered flag no higher than 13th during his seven races inside the cockpit. Come season's end, contends Petrov, the damage to the Swiss-born Frenchman's reputation had already been done.
“Grosjean erred by landing in F1 mid-season,” the man dubbed the 'Vyborg Rocket' in reference to both his birthplace and his speed told French magazine Auto Hebdo
. “There was much more to lose than to win, especially with a car in which Alonso did not do any good.
“A team asked me in mid-2009 [to race] and I refused, and my father supported me. It is necessary to start with a whole season [ahead of you].”
Petrov is reputedly bringing as much as €15 million in personal sponsorship with him to Renault this year, but with some doubts arising about the likelihood of all of that money actually materialising, it is claimed that he has only until the beginning of March to definitively secure his seat.
During the twelve races in which Grosjean and Petrov were paired up together at Barwa in early 2009, the former out-scored the latter by 45 points to 41 and by two race victories to one.