There are reportedly as many as seven other drivers under evaluation for the cockpit currently occupied by Vitaly Petrov at Renault F1 for 2011 – and whilst team principal Eric Boullier has conceded that talks are underway with a number of competitors, the Russian rookie is understood not to be one of them.
Having ably shaken off the 'pay-driver' tag he was unfairly labelled with back at the beginning of the campaign, Petrov has caught the eye on occasion with his raw speed and aggression in battle in F1 2010, but Boullier has also stressed that his consistency and qualifying pace need to improve if he is to hang onto what is fast becoming a coveted seat for a second consecutive season at the highest level.
The 'Vyborg Rocket' has scored only once from the opening ten grands prix thus far, whilst team-mate Robert Kubica has failed to make the top ten on just two occasions, leaving the pair with respective points totals of six and 83 – quite a handicap when Renault is endeavouring to catch and overhaul closest rival Mercedes Grand Prix for fourth spot in the constructors' standings.
Petrov has insisted that 'next year is in-hand...the talks will be held later', and Boullier has stressed that 'his future is actually in his hands' [see separate story – click here
] – but it appears that with speculation of a big-money sponsor of the ilk of MasterCard potentially coming on-board, negotiations have begun with several more experienced drivers, meaning the 25-year-old's future may not be in his own hands at all...
“Some are fanciful, others are realistic because there are already discussions,” Boullier told French publication Auto Hebdo
on the subject of the rumoured candidates, including ex-F1 World Champion-turned-rallying convert Kimi Raikkonen, Mercedes reserve driver – and Kubica's former BMW-Sauber team-mate – Nick Heidfeld, Force India star Adrian Sutil, Sauber's increasingly impressive Kamui Kobayashi, Lotus ace Heikki Kovalainen, Hispania reserve Christian Klien and Timo Glock, whose services Virgin are unsurprisingly rather eager to retain into 2011.
Sébastian Buemi had also been linked to the Enstone-based outfit, prior to his reconfirmation at Scuderia Toro Rosso for next year – albeit an announcement the Swiss ace himself had seemed unaware of [see separate story – click here