Vitaly Petrov is fired-up to 'take it up a level' with Lotus Renault GP over the remaining races in F1 2011, adamant that the team can 'do much, much more' and 'achieve greater things' – and hopeful that his previous record of success and sound knowledge of the Valencia Street Circuit will pay dividends in this weekend's European Grand Prix.
Petrov took the chequered flag a very solid fifth in the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal last time out – his second-best finish of the campaign to-date and ten points that vaulted him past team-mate Nick Heidfeld into seventh spot in the drivers' standings – but still, he concedes, he wasn't entirely satisfied.
“I would have to say 50/50,” the young Russian responded, when asked how happy he was with his Canadian result. “We were expecting to be a little bit higher in qualifying, but I think we had some bad luck during the session so our performance was lower than hoped for.
“The race itself was not easy, because both Nick and I were on different car set-ups. I had less downforce in my set-up, and I think that if I'd had more, I would have had a stronger race. Personally, I think I could have pitted a little earlier, so strategically we could maybe have done it even better I think, but this is only my personal opinion. We finished fifth and took some points from the race, but I know we did not fully capitalise on the situation.”
Reflecting upon Lotus Renault GP's overall form this season – having begun strongly indeed with back-to-back podiums in Australia and Malaysia, only to fall away into the midfield before ostensibly mounting the start of a resurgence in Canada – Petrov insists the Enstone-based outfit still has plenty of untapped potential to fulfil with its R31. As he prepares to return to Valencia – a city in which he used to live – the 26-year-old is palpably revved up to head into the fast-approaching summer break off the back of a run of strong points-scoring finishes.
“It's the third consecutive street circuit race, so we are getting used to these types of venues!” he quipped. “These races add to your experience as a driver. I actually have very good memories of racing in Valencia, because I won here three times when competing in the GP2 Series. I haven't made my mark here yet in F1, but this year I'm much more prepared. It's a circuit I know very well, so I think I have an advantage going into the race. I'm feeling pretty good heading into the next four events.
“It is a challenging season with a variety of circuits and, as a team, we are really amongst it and fighting for the high-end points. The season is a long one, but we need to focus, work hard and above all have the right strategy. We've been spot-on most of the time in this area this season, and we need to keep up the good work. My target for the coming races is points, points and more points.
“It would be much better to take our summer break in the knowledge that we had scored some well-deserved points in the lead-up to it, and I think we can do much, much more. I know I've said that before, but I really believe we can. We've had good results, but together we can achieve greater things. Sometimes I've made mistakes, sometimes our pit-stops could have been improved, but generally, I think we can take it up a level. We need to minimise the mistakes, and the points will keep on coming.”