Vitaly Petrov may be helping to foot Renault F1's Formula One bill for the 2010 season, but there is more to the Russian than that, according to his manager.
Oksana Kossatschenko is frustrated that GP2 Series graduate Petrov is being widely labelled as a 'pay driver' after landing the second Renault seat alongside Robert Kubica as the Enstone team attempts to rebuild after a couple of disastrous seasons. Although she confirms that the Russian has contributed €15m to the regie
's fighting fund this year, Kossatschenko claims that there are other reasons why Renault would have been interested in hiring him.
"Vitaly has not come into F1 because of the money, but because of the strategic interests of various companies, and because of his driving talent," she was quoted as saying by ESPN
, "In Vitaly's career, there have been tempting offers that we have turned down when we realised that the teams didn't want the driver, only his money, but he was at the right place in the right moment [this year], when Renault was expanding its partnership and Russian production with Avtovaz.
"F1 is a business. The team has a budget of just over €200 million, but the [Renault] group owns only 25 per cent of the shares and so cannot cover the budget. The team wants to expand into Russia and Petrov is the key for them. For F1, Russia is a white sheet of paper."
Renault is hoping that Petrov and Kubica can provide a new dawn following two years of poor results, despite having a driver of Fernando Alonso's quality on board. Although the squad took two wins in 2008, one was subsequently sullied by the Singapore 'crash-gate' affair, while Alonso managed just a single podium in 2009.
appeared on course for points in Bahrain after Kubica qualified in the top ten, but a first lap brush with Adrian Sutil relegated the Pole to fighting back through the field, ultimately coming up one place short of scoring. Petrov, meanwhile, made it comfortably into the second phase of qualifying, but had his race cut short by suspension problems.