Vitaly Petrov's hopes of hanging onto his Renault F1 seat for a second consecutive season in 2011 have received a boost, with the 'Vyborg Rocket' having been joined at the team by new sponsor Vyborg Shipyard JSC.
Much was made of Petrov's 'pay driver' status back at the beginning of the campaign – even though the GP2 Series graduate was able to boast impressive credentials in the junior formulae – but it seems the 26-year-old's ability to bring in backers from his homeland remains a strong draw for Renault, which has enjoyed an impressive rebuilding effort in 2010, following its below-par performance and the negative publicity of 'Singapore-gate' in 2009.
There have been persistent rumours that 2007 F1 World Champion turned World Rally Championship (WRC) convert Kimi Raikkonen could line up alongside Robert Kubica at the Enstone-based outfit in 2011 [see separate story – click here
], but Petrov is adamant that he is not concerned about the safety of his seat – and the new agreement with Vyborg Shipyard hints that despite an inconsistent rookie season in the top flight that has at times left his employers frustrated, nor does he have any great reason to be.
'The Renault F1 Team is pleased to announce another successful step in its commercial strategy in Eastern Europe, with the arrival of Vyborg Shipyard JSC as a team partner for the final five rounds of the 2010 season,' reads a statement from the former double world champions. 'This marks the team's second partnership with a Russian company in 2010, following the agreement with Lada, whose logos have featured on the team's cars throughout the season.
'Both companies have been attracted to the team by Vitaly Petrov's promising debut season as Russia's first-ever F1 driver. Vitaly has registered four points-scoring finishes so far in 2010, including a best finish of fifth in the Hungarian Grand Prix – the strongest result for a rookie driver so far this year.
'Vyborg Shipyard JSC is one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the North-Western region of Russia, and its logo will feature on the chassis of both R30 race cars for the remainder of the 2010 season. Vitaly Petrov, a native of Vyborg, will also carry the Vyborg Shipyard logo on his overalls.'
The fact that the deal is only until the end of 2010, however, perhaps suggests that Vyborg Shipyard is unwilling to commit to any longer until it is sure that Petrov will be staying on-board.