Vitaly Petrov continues to insist that he is not focusing on his future in F1, apparently unconcerned about the rumours surrounding possible replacements in the second Renault for next season.
Speaking at the first press conference of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, the Russian rookie cast aside suggestions that his position alongside Robert Kubica may be under threat for 2011, with a growing list of drivers being connected to the Renault team, which has made a remarkable turnaround after two disappointing seasons. Although Kubica has been a fixture at the front of the field, Petrov has only recently begun to contribute to the points, but still makes too many mistakes for paddock insiders to view him as a shoo-in for a second season.
Former Renault pilot Heikki Kovalainen, Force India's Adrian Sutil and even F1 champion-turned-rally driver Kimi Raikkonen are all among those being mentioned in connection with a berth at Enstone in 2011, but Petrov insists that he just wants to concentrate on the job at hand.
“I am not worried," he claimed, "I do my job. I know what I am doing. Why must I worry? They must worry. I think I will continue to do my job and I think everything looks good.”
Kovalainen refuses to confirm his plans for next season, despite being tipped to remain at Lotus courtesy of a contract signed in Monza two weeks ago. The Finn endured a difficult time with the regie
in his first F1 campaign, before being traded to McLaren in exchange for Fernando Alonso. Now with Lotus, Kovalainen has emerged as a more relaxed driver than in his first three years, and the results that have come from that have made him a tantalising prospect for a few teams.
“I know where I want to be, that's all I can say," the Finn told the press conference at Marina Bay, "Let's leave it at that at the moment and just focus on the coming weekend. I think there is a lot of potential [at Lotus] and I think it will get better. The car will get quicker, so I see it is a very strong future for the team.”
While Kovalainen remains linked to another year at Lotus, and Raikkonen appears more likely to move from Citroen to another WRC outfit - possibly the new Prodrive-run Mini or Monster Ford outfits - Sutil has apparently allowed his option with Force India to lapse while he waits for possible openings at Renault and Mercedes.
The German would bring valuable backing to Renault, courtesy of long-time sponsor Medion, and current team owner Gerard Lopez has hinted that finding a well-heeled driver would take priority over a big name. While that potentially rules out Raikkonen - and includes Sutil - it also suggests that Petrov may be kept on board in order to foster links with the largely untapped Russian market.
"We have to push our team to succeed because we use the platform to do business," Lopez was quoted as saying by isportconnect.com
, "People like to do business with winning teams, so it goes hand in hand. It's even more important now to build the team, to use that platform for the business side of it.
"It's not that Vitaly is a paying driver, because he's not, but certainly the sponsors that he brought or that came [are useful]. And he's a good driver. Vitaly was second in the GP2 championship last year and could easily have won that championship if he hadn't had six failures. On top of all that, he is a driver that has 250 million Russian-speaking people that are convinced in him, so we'd be stupid not to assume that there is a business behind that."