Actually, in all fairness, you’d be forgiven for not knowing who Petrov is. Unlike GP2 front-runners like Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hulkenburg and, err, Nelson Piquet Jr, Petrov has never been talked of as an F1 star of the future. Why? Well, mainly because he’s never come near the results those guys had in the F1 feeder series. He’s spent three and a half years being distinctly average.
But Petrov did finish second to Hulkenburg in 2009. Okay, it was his third year in the series (Hulkenburg’s first) and he probably would have finished behind teammate Romain Grosjean had the Frenchman not made his disastrous move to F1 with Renault.
But in his three years in the series Petrov did take four wins- not bad in the ultra competitive GP2- and looked a solid, if not spectacular driver. His previous honours include the Russian Formula 1600 series and the Lada Revolution Russia championship. Unsurprisingly, he’s the first driver to enter F1 who’s ever won these series.
Having initially been talked of as a shoe-in for the seat alongside Bruno Senna at new team Campos Meta Petrov has landed himself a plum ride at 2005 and 2006 constructors champions Renault.
And ultimately Petrov’ has got his drive because he’s brought an estimated twenty million Euros of sponsorship to Renault. With companies like Gazprom and Sberbank behind him, and Renault, feeling the post-Crashgate/global downturn pinch, were keen to have him on board. Check out the lack of sponsorship on the new R30. The fact that Petrov’s got a decent record in the sub F1 categories is just a bonus.
How will Russia’s first F1 driver fare in 2010? Well, up against the mega-quick Kubica he’s probably in for a very tough season. A baptism of fire, even. Being at Renault may bring the benefit of driving for an established team, but that in itself adds pressure. If new boys Lucas di Grassi and Bruno Senna have a tough 2010, so what? They’re at new teams; you can’t expect all that much of them. Petrov has a very quick teammate to live up to and an illustrious team to defend the honour of. It’s going to be tough, but all that sponsorship money should mean he gets a long honeymoon period with the Enstone based team.
How do you think Petrov will fare in 2010? What does his signing say about Renault and their ambitions for the new season? Let us know what you think.