Vitaly Petrov may have started the 2011 F1 season strongly, with a podium finish in round one at Albert Park, but the Renault driver is keen to stress that he is not expecting similar results to come regularly.

Petrov made a little F1 history with his third place behind Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Australia, becoming the first Russian to mount a grand prix podium, but he accepts that, with other teams showing greater pace than his R31, he is more likely to be scrapping for points than silverware in the next few months. A solid qualifying performance and stellar start accounted for many of those around him in Melbourne, and Petrov concedes that he was happy to make the most of the opportunity that came along.

"It was really great [to be on the podium and] to stand there with guys who have won world championships," he admitted to the official F1 website, "It was very nice to drink the champagne and to become part of the crowd who have experienced it. It's not that looking down from there makes you think that all those down there are smaller - it's nothing like that at all - but, for one second, you probably feel a bit taller. When I received the trophy, it was an intense feeling of pride in what the team and I had achieved together.

"But how does the saying go? One swallow doesn't make a summer. We are realistic and know that the Red Bulls, the McLarens and the Ferraris are the benchmark. To take a podium again, you have to outperform at least four of their drivers, which is a pretty huge task. What helped us in Melbourne was having a perfect strategy and not making any mistakes, but that is hard to repeat every fortnight. Now we have to focus on taking them on with the pure speed of the car because at the moment their cars are quicker than our car.

"My guess is that Red Bull is still quickest, McLaren is second, Ferrari maybe third and Renault fourth or better. Who knows! F1 is a sport where the pack is reshuffled at each and every qualifying session and race. What I can say is that I hope that we will be up there again. We will do everything to make it happen."

The result was also a fillip for the Renault team, which lost its team leader, Robert Kubica, to a rally accident after the first group session of the off-season. Although Nick Heidfeld was drafted in as the Pole's replacement, and did well in testing, he failed to shine in Melbourne, leaving Petrov to show the potential of the R31.

"The winter was not easy, as we didn't know where we were," he reflected, "We tried some upgrades without really knowing if they would help us. To be fair, the Melbourne performance was not such a surprise but, of course, you always hope that something like this will be the result of all your winter efforts. When I landed P6 in qualifying - and everybody had been saying that the first qualifying session would give the first real hint of the pecking order - then we knew that we had done a lot of things right. That was a proud moment."

The Russian is quick to play down suggestions that he is now the team's number one, however, insisting that Heidfeld will bounce back from his Melbourne malaise.

"It was the first race, so let's wait a bit longer before we speak about any pecking order in the team," he stressed, "Nick has a lot of experience and this experience is useful to us. Having ten years of F1 experience is a commodity that can really help us push the team forward."



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