F1 2010 rookie Vitaly Petrov is confident that he is approaching this weekend's European Grand Prix – the ninth round on the world championship calendar, and as such the ninth race of his fledgling top flight career – with 'a better baseline' than he had in Montreal last time out, given that he 'knows all of the tricks' to being quick in Valencia.
Petrov endured a tough time of things in Canada, qualifying six positions behind team-mate Robert Kubica in 14th and then going on to spin on the opening lap of the race and subsequently pick up a brace of separate drive-through penalties for a jump-start and for avoidable contact with Sauber rival Pedro de la Rosa on the run down to Turn One for the first time. In comparison with Kubica's P7 at the chequered flag, the resultant 17th place achieved by the 'Vyborg Rocket' was a lowly return. He did not, he acknowledges, cover himself in glory.
“First of all, I know I made mistakes in the race,” confessed the first Russian ever to make it to the highest level. “At the start, I took a risk by moving onto the grass; it didn't work and I was given the drive-through penalty, but it was still important to finish the race because it always gives you much more information, particularly about how to look after the tyres in different conditions.
“I will take that experience with me, and I will know better how to handle certain situations in the future. The bad result is in the past for me now – it's time to focus on what's ahead.”
What's immediately ahead is the forthcoming European Grand Prix in Valencia, Petrov's 'home' city and a circuit around which he triumphed last year in the feeder GP2 Series. Whilst the 25-year-old is optimistic of a much better showing than he produced in Canada simply by dint of having prior track knowledge this time, he insists he is 'keeping his feet on the ground' as he looks to the future in terms of what he might be able to accomplish.
“Yes, of course,” he responded, when asked if he is feeling positive for his Spanish outing, “because I won the race there last year – and also because I know all of the tricks in terms of the braking-points, the lines, where you can use the kerbs and even how the tyres will perform and degrade during the race. Of course, it will be different again in an F1 car, so it will still be a big challenge to put together a good performance all the way through the weekend, but I will be starting from a better baseline than in Canada.
“I've been living in the city for three years because it's where my GP2 team was based, so I know everything here. It's not like having a home race in your own country, in front of your people, but it's a good feeling because you know the place already, you feel comfortable there and feel good. As we don't have a French Grand Prix this year for Renault, I think the next race at Silverstone will be more like a 'home' race, because it's so close to the factory in Enstone.
“I prefer to keep my feet on the ground and concentrate on my job rather than setting targets, but I think it's going to be quite an interesting race [in Valencia]. We will have a new package for this race, so it will be interesting to see how it improves the car and how I need to adapt my driving style to it. We saw that Force India were quick in Canada, so we need to make sure that we can beat them and try to fight with Mercedes – this is the most important thing for the team.”