Renault F1 team boss Eric Boullier has said that he is in no hurry to finalise his line-up for 2011, easing the pressure on current incumbent Vitaly Petrov .
The Russian has largely failed to live up to expectation, despite being paired with highly-rated Robert Kubica, and is rumoured to be facing opposition for his seat from as many as seven rivals as Renault shows signs of returning to form after two years in the wilderness. Kubica has amassed 89 points in eleven races, putting him seventh in the standings, while Petrov has just seven.
Boullier, however, insists that last year's GP2 Series runner-up will be given more time to stake a claim for 2011, although he expects him to raise his game another notch in the coming races.
"We have a lot of drivers chasing us, but we will see," he told , "I want to give Vitaly the support he needs to deliver, so we will wait as long as possible. If he doesn't deliver now, then maybe we will make the decision earlier, but we trusted in him, brought him in and, actually, he did match our expectation so why should we kill him?
"If you analyse session by session, race by race, you will see that, sometimes, he is very close and matching the pace of Robert. He needs to build his confidence and learn F1 as well. Let's say Hockenheim was 95 per cent what I expect from him - but now he needs to do it every race. If we see Vitaly doing well every race, and if we believe he is catching up quickly enough in terms of learning, he will be with us next year. But, next year, we need to have two cars scoring points."
Petrov was understood to have got the Renault seat as much for his backing as for his pace, and recent rumours suggesting the regie was looking for an advance on next year's payments from the sport, did not bode well with other well-heeled drivers knocking on the door. Boullier, however, discounted speculation that the team may be in money trouble, insisting that it was merely looking for the funds with which to continue developing this year's car.
"There is absolutely no problem of budget, indeed the opposite," the Frenchman maintained, "We have the sponsors and more money coming. The only thing is, we would like it earlier than expected to be able to develop the car. The same teams who spread the rumours in the paddock did not accept [the request for an advance], so we have found already another solution and it's done."
The rumour mill continues to link MasterCard to a possible sponsorship deal with Renault for next year, with claims that that may be enough to tempt former world champion Kimi Raikkonen back from rallying. Boullier, meanwhile, insists that there are several possibilities open to the team for 2011.
"We have more than a couple of contacts and more than a couple of companies and big groups interested but, until it is signed and paid, I can't tell you if we will have one," he admitted, "The synergy between Renault and [team owner] Genii is very good and we have signed a couple of sponsors this year already and have some more coming. We have a lot of discussions for next year as well. It's going the right way."