The Renault F1 team added further points to its 2010 championship tally as Robert Kubica produced a typically battling performance to finish fifth in the Korean Grand Prix, but a double points finish went begging after Vitaly Petrov crashed out.
The Pole was unable to make much impression in the stilted opening part of the race, which ran three laps behind the pace car before being red-flagged for safety reasons, and only restarted - again at a controlled speed - an hour after its scheduled slot. The safety car remained at the head of the queue for a further 14 laps, until the heavy rain abated, but Kubica struggled to get his car handling well enough to make early progress.
"It was a long, difficult race – and a race of two halves," he reported, "The first part was very tricky for me, because I had big problems warming up the tyres. I had no grip at all and couldn't push – I was just concentrating on keeping the car on the track."
As the track dried, however, so the Renault team leader was able to pick up his pace, and the belated switch to intermediate tyres ultimately allowed him to race to the finish.
"For the second half, I think it was very good," he said, "It was important to look after the intermediate tyres and keep them in as good shape as possible, to get the benefit in the final laps. That was when I managed to gain a lot of positions, which meant everything turned out pretty well in the end."
The Pole went from eighth to fifth in the final few laps, demoting both Williams cars along the way, but ran out of time to close the eight-second gap to fourth-placed Michael Schumacher. Nevertheless, the result was welcomed by the Renault team, which lost its second car 16 laps from home while running comfortably in the points.
"It's a case of mixed feelings following a race where we scored a solid top-five finish, but also lost a potential double points finish," team principal Eric Boullier commented, "We made good strategy calls for Vitaly, and he was doing a good job when he lost the car in the final corner. In those conditions, every mistake will be punished, even though he was driving to look after his tyres.
"As for Robert, he produced a strong performance to finish fifth. He managed his intermediate tyres well, and was catching the cars in front of him in the final laps – and would have passed them on track, had he not pressured them into mistakes. His fifth place was the plus point of our afternoon."
For Petrov, the lap 39 accident will come as another blow to his chances of retaining the seat alongside Kubica for 2011, particularly with another Russian, World Series by Renault champion Mikhail Aleshin attracting attention in the paddock and running with the regie
at next month's 'young driver' test in Abu Dhabi. Despite his body language as he walked away from the wrecked R30, however, Petrov has been holding his own in the tricky conditions prior to putting a wheel over the wet kerbs.