On a day of distinctly mixed fortunes for Lotus Renault GP, Vitaly Petrov shunted and Nick Heidfeld scored in Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix – a race that fell a long way short of expectations for the Enstone-based outfit.
Having arrived in the glamorous Principality anticipating a strong weekend – in the knowledge that the narrow, tortuous streets of Monte Carlo had been a happy hunting-ground in seasons past, with Robert Kubica's front row starting spot and podium finish last year still fresh in the memory – it swiftly became apparent that Renault was unlikely to enjoy such good fortune again twelve months on.
A hugely frustrating qualifying session yielded just eleventh place for Petrov and 16th for Heidfeld, and 24 hours later, the young Russian was eliminated from contention for an excellent fourth position following a gritty drive up through the order when he became an innocent victim in the chain-reaction accident prompted by Adrian Sutil's brush with the wall at Tabac barely ten laps from home. The experienced German, by contrast, successfully stayed the course to take the chequered flag eighth.
“First of all, I would like to thank all my fans for their well wishes, the medical teams at the circuit, the hospital for their efficient and friendly assistance and the team for their concern,” underlined Petrov, who initially complained of a sore ankle but following a precautionary check-up, was happily diagnosed to have sustained no broken bones or fractures.
“It was quite a big impact, and I could not feel my legs very well after the crash. I thought it was best for the medical team to assist with removing me from the car, as it was difficult for me to move and my legs were trapped in the cockpit. I did not lose consciousness, but I was in quite a lot of pain when I was inside the car.
“I had made a good start, gaining two places straightaway. After my pit-stop, I was stuck behind Kamui Kobayashi – who was very slow – and Adrian Sutil, who was defending his position really too aggressively, but I was being cautious as it is very difficult to pass on this track. Then I got caught in the incident. It is a shame, as we could have got quite a few points this weekend. I'm now looking forward to Montreal. We need to sort out our problems in qualifying and we will get some good results, as our race pace is usually very good.”
“Firstly, I am glad that Vitaly is doing okay,” reflected the consistent Heidfeld, whose four points have vaulted the 34-year-old above compatriot Nico Rosberg into sixth spot in the drivers' standings. “Hearing that he has not broken or fractured anything is good news. He was in a strong position, and was very unlucky to have the incident.
“For me, the start of the race was okay; I almost got one of the Force Indias, but I did not manage to make up a place, unfortunately. When the safety car came out, I got a very late call into the pits but I made it, which definitely helped me. It was a difficult weekend for us here, but to take four points for the team is okay given my qualifying position.”
Indeed, on a distinctly under-par weekend for Renault, the former double F1 World Champions were handed something of a get-out-of-jail-free card by the misfortunes suffered by arch-rival Mercedes Grand Prix, who endured even more of a nightmare and tallied no points at all, enabling the Oxfordshire concern to edge slightly further ahead in the constructors' table. It was, mused team principal Eric Boullier, the sole real saving grace.