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Q&A with Renault’s Kubica and Petrov 31 Jan 2010

(L to R): Robert Kubica (POL) Renault with team mate Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Renault. Renault R30 Launch, Valencia, Spain, Sunday 31 January 2010. Renault R30 detail. Renault R30 Launch, Valencia, Spain, Sunday 31 January 2010. Robert Kubica (POL) Renault and Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Renault (Left). Renault R30 Launch, Valencia, Spain, Sunday 31 January 2010. Renault R30 detail. Renault R30 Launch, Valencia, Spain, Sunday 31 January 2010. Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Renault R30. Renault R30 Launch, Valencia, Spain, Sunday 31 January 2010.

Following Sunday’s unveiling of the R30, Renault drivers Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov give their thoughts on the new car and the season ahead…

Q: Robert, you’ve had a long association with Renault throughout your career and now you’re racing for Renault in F1. How does it feel?
Robert Kubica:
I’m very happy to be here and, as you say, I do have a long history with Renault. In fact my single-seater career started in a Formula Renault in 2001 and then in 2005 I won the World Series by Renault. That gave me the chance to test for the Renault F1 Team and started my journey in Formula One. Although my career took a different direction with BMW, it’s great to be back with Renault where I have a lot of good memories. I already know a lot of the people here and over the winter I have seen how motivated everybody is to improve our competitiveness and start winning races again.

Q: You’ve followed the progress of the new car, the R30, closely over the winter. What are your first impressions?
RK:
Obviously the R30 is bigger than the R29 because the refuelling ban means we need a bigger fuel cell, which has had an impact on the design of the car. Last year Renault’s car was not that competitive so I’m being realistic because I know that we need to make up a lot of ground if we want to fight at the front. But the team have been concentrating on the 2010 car for a long time and I’m convinced that we are moving in the right direction. Even if we start the season in the midfield, I’m sure we can catch the other teams during the year.

Q: Renault is only your second Formula One Team so you must be excited by a fresh challenge…
RK:
Absolutely! I’m still relatively new to Formula One and I’m looking forward to meeting new people and learning how a different team operates. As I’ve already said, I feel that I have a special connection with this team and I like the attitude that Renault takes towards racing. The atmosphere here is very friendly and open, and the team knows what it takes to win so I feel very comfortable in this environment.

Q: Will the refuelling ban and introduction of narrower front tyres have a big impact on the racing?
RK:
I don’t think it will have a major impact on the racing, but it will certainly change the behaviour of the car. For example, we can expect to see a huge difference between qualifying lap times and the lap times at the start of the race. When the car is full of fuel it will probably add 150 kgs of weight and that will have a huge effect on driving style – especially for braking points. With the narrower tyres we will have to be careful not to wear them out too quickly and we will need to adapt the set-up and weight distribution to cope with this.

Q: Although you’ve yet to drive the R30, what personal objectives do you have in mind for 2010?
RK:
It’s a difficult question to answer. Based on my experience from the previous years, you never really know what to expect until the season starts because things can change so quickly, especially during the winter. When I was with Sauber in 2008, I remember the car did not meet our expectations at the start of the year, but within a month we had turned things around and I took pole position in Bahrain. So things can change very quickly, which is why it’s hard to say what my objectives are. My only hope is that the car is easy to drive because the new rules will favour cars that are not too sensitive – we need a car that behaves consistently in a wide range of conditions.

Q: Vitaly, you’ve just been announced as a Renault F1 Team driver. You must be thrilled…
Vitaly Petrov:
Yes, absolutely! For me it was a very long winter and I felt rather nervous when I saw other drivers’ contracts signed one after another. But I always believed that one day it would by my turn, and now, thanks to the Renault F1 Team, this finally became a reality. When I first drove a Formula Renault 2.0 car back in 2003, I couldn’t imagine that one day I would drive for Renault in Formula One so this really is a dream come true. Now I just can’t wait to sit in the cockpit and do my very first lap in a Formula One car. I’m sure it will feel fantastic.

Q: Are you looking forward to working alongside Robert Kubica? Do you know him already?
VP:
I’ve followed Robert’s progress in Formula One for a couple of years and he’s a really nice guy. We’re both from Eastern Europe and we both like rallying and ice racing – so for me Robert is almost the perfect teammate. He’s been in Formula One for four years already and has won a race so I’m sure I can learn a lot from him. I know that Robert was keen for me to join the team so I’d like to thank him for his support.

Q: How will you prepare for the new season both physically and mentally?
VP:
The physical side is much easier as fitness training is a part of my life and I feel fit enough already. Maybe I should do some more work to build up my neck with the fitness trainer at Renault so that I don’t have any problems. The mental side is more challenging because it still takes time for me to realise that I am a Formula One driver and that I will be on the grid in Bahrain. Also, I will be the first Russian to race in Formula One so there will be a lot of interest and expectation. But I’m not worrying about it as I have enough time to get used to the attention and prepare for the season. The next four weeks will be particularly important at the test sessions as I get to know the team and work closely with everyone to make sure I am ready.

Q: What are you most looking forward to this year?
VP:
I’m really looking forward to any wet races and the street circuits. That’s because I started my racing career in Russia competing in rally sprints and ice racing so I feel comfortable in slippery conditions. Also, I won my first GP2 race on a wet track in Valencia when I started on slicks on a damp track. But first I need to see what an F1 car feels like in the rain.

Q: What are your goals for the year ahead?
VP:
Òî learn as much as possible from this successful team and from Robert during the year. I’m so proud to be here and want to do the best job I can. When testing begins we will be able to judge where the R30 is in comparison with the other teams so before that it’s too early to set targets. All I can say is that I will try to be as close to Robert as possible and hopefully score points regularly for the team.