As he approaches a race in which he asserts 'qualifying will be very important', Vitaly Petrov has acknowledged that he still needs to get to grips properly with Pirelli's F1 2011 rubber, after seeing a strong points-scoring result slip through his fingers in the Spanish Grand Prix three days ago.
Having lined up sixth on the grid in Barcelona and made a strong start to run fifth during the opening phase of the race, Petrov ultimately fell away to eleventh at the chequered flag around the Circuit de Catalunya, outside of the points and some three spots and 38 seconds behind Lotus Renault GP team-mate Nick Heidfeld, who had begun right at the very rear of the field with three fresh sets of soft-compound tyres at his disposal and passed the sister R31 with ten laps remaining.
The Russian has since lamented that in the light of their contrasting fortunes under the Spanish sun, qualifying in F1 2011 might as well be abolished for all the good that it serves [see separate story – click here
] – but he now seems to be conceding that his own tyre usage may leave a little to be desired, too.
“It was difficult, and naturally I was disappointed that I could not take advantage of the strong position I secured for myself in qualifying,” the 26-year-old mused of his Barcelona frustrations. “I did not drive so successfully in certain parts after I stopped, but what I did learn from the experience is that ideally we would like to have more new, fresh tyres. Tyre degradation was a real factor there, and I think it affected my drive on Sunday. The tyres are what we have to understand, because they are affecting the outcomes of races.”
Two factors whose introduction Petrov is clearly enthusiastic about, however, are DRS and KERS – 'because they help overtaking considerably' – but he fears that even allowing for that, passing will still be a rare beast around the narrow, tortuous confines of Monte Carlo in this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix.
“It's a different type of race, a one-off,” he reflected. “Qualifying will be very important, [but] I feel we can qualify very strongly and near to the front – this will be the key here, of that there's no doubt. If you don't qualify well, it makes it very difficult to move up a long way because there are not too many overtaking opportunities. It's a tight circuit and opportunities are at a premium, so Saturday will be an absolutely crucial day for us.
“Driving in Monaco really is something special, though. It's an unusual race, different to the others because of the layout, the schedule over the weekend and how close spectators are to the action. It is a place where, as a driver, you really have to concentrate because it is a tight circuit, but I have good memories there because I finished second in GP2 in 2009, so I'm looking forward to coming back and trying to achieve some more success.
“What you also have to remember is that Monaco is a massive fixture not just in motorsport but in all sport. When people think of F1, they think of the Monaco race. For that very reason, we know this is the big one.”