Vitaly Petrov’s future in his own hands, says Renault boss
Renault boss Eric Boullier has insisted that Vitaly Petrov’s future is in his own hands despite the team considering their options for 2011.
Petrov joined the team as a pay driver after principal sponsor ING pulled out at the end of the 2009 season following the Ã¢â‚¬ËœCrashgate’ scandal, but so far has been consistently slower than team-mate Robert Kubica.
With the regime change at Renault for 2010 under Bouiller, and the team’s reasonable success with Kubica, they are now in a position to attract new sponsors with MasterCard rumoured to be on board for 2011.
If that proves to be the case, Renault’s need for a pay driver disappears, and the team can bring in another top name to compete with Kubica and help move the team forward to challenge the top three of McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari.
Former world champion Kimi RÃƒÂ¤ikkÃƒÂ¶nen has already been linked with a move to Renault for 2011 after failing to secure a drive at McLaren or Mercedes for 2010.
Mercedes continue to be interested in the former McLaren and Ferrari driver, and he could be a replacement for Michael Schumacher should the German walk away after a poor comeback season.
Other options for Renault include Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi, a driver Boullier is familiar with, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Boullier has already admitted to Buemi having a Ã¢â‚¬Ëœspecial place’ on his shopping list.
However, Boullier insists, Petrov’s future with the team is down to himself.
“His future is actually in his hands,” he told Renault’s podcast. “We have not been disappointed by him – he clearly is the best rookie in the paddock.”
Despite praise from Boullier, Petrov has just six points from 10 races in 2010. Sauber’s Japanese rookie Kamui Kobayashi, first seen at the end of 2009 with Toyota, has more than double that with 15. It is unequivocal proof there that Kobayashi has outscored Petrov, and in a worse car too.
Earlier in the season, rumours suggested that Petrov needed to achieve 25 per cent of Kubica’s points to retain his seat for 2011, but he is currently nowhere near reaching that target half-way through the season, as Kubica sits seventh in the driver standings with 83 points.
The 2010 Renault is by no means the best car on the grid but as Kubica’s results, including a second and third place finish prove, the car can be competitive. But perhaps just not in the hands of Petrov, who has finished in the top 10 just once this season.
Rumours are circulating that Petrov will lose his seat at the end of the season as the new sponsorship money allows Renault to recruit a new driver.
Mercedes test driver Nick Heidfeld or Belgian GP2 driver JerÃƒÂ´me d’Ambrosio could also be a possibility if the big names are not secured.