Despite having a contract in place for next season, Vitaly Petrov is not guaranteed to remain with the Lotus Renault team for a third F1 campaign, according to his manager.
The Russian had been expected to lead the Enstone squad should Robert Kubica not be able to return in 2012 but, with Kimi Raikkonen being announced as Lotus Renault driver on Tuesday, doubt has not only been cast over Petrov's role, but also his relationship with the team in general. According to manager Oksana Kossatchenko, a decision won't be taken until next week at the earliest, and it was by no means certain that Petrov would remain on board to team up with the former world champion.
Romain Grosjean, Bruno Senna and even veteran Rubens Barrichello have been mentioned as potential Lotus Renault drivers in 2012, adding to the uncertainty, with Grosjean known to be a favourite of team principal Eric Boullier. The GP2 champion ran for the team in Friday practice at the last two races, while Senna contested the final eight rounds of the season after replacing Nick Heidfeld alongside Petrov. The Russian finished the season tenth in the standings with 37 points.
"I have a meeting tomorrow morning to decide what we are doing, whether we are staying or not," Kossatchenko told Reuters
, "We will have a discussion. I guess we will find a solution and then we will have a few days to sort it out. We would like to know the plan from the team before we confirm our presence in the team."
Tuesday's announcement confirming Raikkonen's return to the F1 fold did not name a team-mate, despite Petrov having a year to run on his current deal.
"We want to make an analysis of the year and then we will decide whether we can collaborate and go forward together, or if it is better for us to split," Kossatchenko confirmed, "I would like to stay with what we have at the moment, so the best option is to keep Vitaly in Lotus for the next year."
Kubica has confirmed that he will be unable to race from the start of 2012, as his recuperation from the rallying accident that sidelined him for the entire 2011 campaign continues, but it could be that the second seat at Lotus Renault will be warmed by a stand-in pending the Pole's eventual return, even though Kubica has also been linked to a possible future at Ferrari.
Petrov weakened his position at Enstone somewhat with an inappropriate outburst following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in which he attacked the team's development and strategy. Although he has since apologised, the incident will not be forgotten easily.
"After today's decision was announced, I was given a very short amount of time, literally ten days," Kossatchenko told Ria Novosti
, "We have until 10 December to decide if Vitaly stays or leaves. It's better to put it this way - will the management come to an agreement with the owners? If we do, then Vitaly should take it as a given [that he will be at Lotus Renault next season]."