Vitaly Petrov accepts that he is unlikely to be in a position to repeat the podium finish he took in last year's Australian Grand Prix, but knows that there is a better-than-average chance of opening his account with new team Caterham in the season-opener at Albert Park.
The Russian made a little F1 history twelve months ago when he became the first man from his nation to ascend to an F1 podium, claiming third place behind Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton as he appeared to confirm Lotus Renault's strong start to 2011. Petrov even posted a faster lap that eclipsed Hamilton's best effort in the supposedly superior McLaren as he built on promising test performances for the Enstone team, but subsequently saw his season fall away, culminating in his exit from Lotus ahead of the 2012 campaign.
Picked up by Caterham as a late replacement for veteran Jarno Trulli, Petrov has had a couple of tests in Barcelona to settle into his new environment, but is realistic when it comes to assessing his chances for the Australian round. While dismissing the chances of another podium, however, he is not entirely ruling out a 'successful' weekend.
“Melbourne is obviously somewhere that will always be very special for me as, last year, I scored my first F1 podium there and was given a really good welcome by all the Australian fans, and I'm sure it will be the same again this year," he ventured, "I think it's pretty clear we won't be in a position to fight for a podium again, but I think the goal will be to push the midfield teams as hard as we can as who knows what could happen....
"Usually, there are quite a few retirements in Australia, and there are a couple of areas of the track that don't leave any room for error, so I hope we're there at the end of the race and able to take advantage of whatever's happened ahead."
Despite their relative short relationship, Petrov has slipped comfortably into the fold at Caterham, and heads 'down under' happier with the set-up of his CT01 than he was after his initial outing at the Circuit de Catalunya.
“It will be a good weekend for me generally as I'm really enjoying life with my new team," he confirmed, "We spent quite a lot of time in Barcelona looking at how to fine tune the setups specifically for me and, while we do have more work to do in Australia, we definitely made some real progress at the last test which puts me in as good a position as we could hope for when we get to Melbourne.
"It's still early days, but I've been given a great welcome by everyone and I'm starting to build a good relationship with my engineer, so I think we have a good year ahead of us, whatever happens."