F1 2010 newcomer Vitaly Petrov has audaciously stated that just because he is a rookie, that does not necessarily mean he will automatically be the designated number two at Renault to grand prix-winning team-mate Robert Kubica this season – though speculation persists that the Russian's promised budget to secure his drive is still far from forthcoming.
It has been widely assumed that Petrov – who is due to make history in the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir in just under three weeks' time, when he becomes the first of his countrymen ever to grace the grid at the highest level – will play a supporting role this year to Kubica, who some rate as a genuine world champion in-the-making. It is understood that according to the terms of his contract with the team, the reigning GP2 Series runner-up must tally at least a quarter of the Pole's points total to be sure of hanging onto his seat.
His perceived reputation as a 'pay driver' – even though the Enstone-based outfit's new team principal Eric Boullier insists the 25-year-old was signed predominantly for his talent and impressive results in the junior formulae – only adds to that expectation, but the man himself warns that it would be unwise to judge the situation too soon.
“The races have not yet begun, so maybe he (Kubica) will be the number two,” he told state-owned Russian news agency RIA Novosti
. “Every driver is responsible for himself.”
The so-called 'Vyborg Rocket' is reputed to be bringing some €15 million to Renault in terms of personal sponsorship to help swell the coffers this year, but half of that sum has yet to materialise, and Russian daily sports newspaper Sovetsky Sport
reports that a petition signed by fellow athletes has been sent to the country's prime minister and influential former president Vladimir Putin in a bid to raise the missing €7.5 million.
Petrov has also revealed that he had options to join two other teams for the forthcoming campaign – Sauber and Campos Meta 1 – going on to explain that it was Renault's experience and race and championship-winning pedigree that ultimately convinced him to sign on the dotted line.
“I chose Renault, just as I could have chosen Sauber, for one simple reason,” he is quoted as having said by Yalla F1
. “I will learn more and faster with a team that has been around for a long time. It's better to be lost in the middle of a big city than in the middle of Siberia!”