Vitaly Petrov has been blasted as 'the worst driver' in the F1 2010 field and adept only at 'making mistakes' by former grand prix ace Jos Verstappen – a man not always renowned for keeping it on the track during his own top flight career.
Petrov's rookie campaign with Renault F1 was a chequered one to say the least, with a number of accidents and a general inability to string together a consistently strong weekend frustrating his employers and casting doubt over his future – but those weaknesses were interspersed with bursts of startling raw pace, feisty racecraft and aggressive overtaking that certainly caught the eye.
A starring performance in the Abu Dhabi finale last month – allied to his evident sponsorship-attracting potential back in his Russian homeland – looks likely to earn the 26-year-old a stay-of-execution at the Enstone-based outfit into 2011, but Verstappen reckons it will be more than the 'Vyborg Rocket' deserves.
“Petrov I feel was the worst newcomer and the worst driver,” the Dutchman wrote in his column for the De Telegraaf
newspaper. “Apart from [Abu Dhabi], I mostly see Petrov as good at making mistakes. Whether against a wall, spinning off or messing up his start, he ruined quite a few races, and you can't let that happen when you're driving for a strong team like Renault.
“The difference in quality and in points with his team-mate Robert Kubica was enormous, but it's maybe not a fair comparison because Kubica – along with [Sebastian] Vettel and [Fernando] Alonso – is the very best.”
Verstappen went on to state that newly-crowned F1 World Champion Vettel enjoyed 'anything but a spotless year with big mistakes here and there' en route
to glory, and mused over the title near-miss of the young German's Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber, chastising the Australian for having elected not to inform his team about his late-season shoulder injury, that only very recently came to light.
“He hurt himself on a mountain bike, which doesn't sound like a good idea, especially when you're in the race for the title,” the 38-year-old reflected, conceding that aside from that, Webber's campaign had been a 'good' one. “In that case, you need to be extra careful. Clumsier still was keeping quiet about it even within his own team. I can understand and well imagine the disappointment and frustration of the principal Christian Horner.”
Verstappen added, finally, that he is disappointed that the driver he describes as 'one of the best newcomers' in 2010 – Nico Hülkenberg – has been dropped by Williams to make way for his well-heeled GP2 Series championship-winning successor Pastor Maldonado.
“I've known Nico for quite a few years and think he's a damn good driver,” admitted the man who notched up a brace of podiums for Benetton in 1994 but is perhaps best remembered for his Hockenheim pit-lane fireball that year, and now looks after his young son Max's burgeoning international karting career.
“It's difficult to contend with a seasoned pro' like Rubens Barrichello, but while he might not have done a great job, he certainly wasn't bad. I hope he finds somewhere else for next year, because his seat at Williams has been bought by Pastor Maldonado.”