From Russia with speed - exclusive Vitaly Petrov interview 07 May 2010
As Russias first-ever Formula One racer, Vitaly Petrov has already made it into the record books, but after emerging from the first four races as the leading newcomer of 2010 it is clear the Renault driver is determined to make history on his own terms too. Boosted by his seventh-place finish at last months Chinese Grand Prix, the 25 year-old is hoping to clock up more mileage - and maybe a few more points - at this weekends Spanish race
Q: Vitaly, after four races, how far has the reality met your expectations? Have your goals been fulfilled?
Vitaly Petrov: Not really, because I could have finished more races than I did, and finished them in a good position, but I didnt. Its true that some of the races so far have been sort of tumultuous, and you could argue that this is racing, but nevertheless I could have walked home with more points than I actually did. Youre never happy when you are not first.
Q: You seem to be the best-performing rookie so far this season. How does that make you feel? You know all the other new Formula One entrants from your time in GP2...
VP: I try not to think about such things, I just try to do my work. There are only four races completed and this best of the rookies status could melt away in this or the next race. Of course I want to stay in front of the other newcomers - its better for me and of course for my career - but as I said we are still in the warm-up phase of the season.
Q: How does Formula One racing differ from the other series youve competed in? How does it feel to be back down the order, after your successes in GP2?
VP: It is more fun when you start at the back. You can fight more, pass more people. Okay, there is always the danger of getting mixed up with some collisions. If I think about it, it sometimes is better to start last than say in 15th, as there the risk of making 'enemy contact' is much higher. Of course to start first is the ultimate goal, then you are the king of the road!
Q: Renault team principal Eric Boullier said that the fact youre from Russia played a role his decision to sign you. At home, has anything changed since you joined Renault?
VP: Well, of course there are a lot of media stories - it always happens if you are the first - but I try not to get too involved with all the press stories. I just concentrate on my work. I am here to be a racing driver. Sure, there is generally now more interest in Formula One in Russia than before. Russians are very patriotic.
Q: So you are already a star back home?
VP: I dont know! I have been travelling all the time lately.
Q: Your team mate Robert Kubica is a through and through racer. How are you getting along with him?
VP: I thought we are all racers here! No? Robert is a good, funny guy and we work closely together to adapt the car to our needs. Thats basically it.
Q: The Renault team have undergone a lot of changes within a short period of time. Now it seems as though it is emerging from the trials of 2009. With all the adjustment, is there enough time to nurture a rookie?
VP: I think so. The team is feeling very comfortable. I dont know what was going on before but since Ive joined it feels very good - the spirit is great. And in terms of myself, they are really, really helpful. They try to improve my driving style. They constantly ask me what they can do to help me, what I need to adapt faster. I feel very much taken care of - and that helps me a lot.
Q: So it all sounds as if you are enjoying Formula One racing very much
VP: Yes, of course. At the first two races I found it rather hard to really understand that Im now racing in F1- that its not a dream. Now I am getting more and more into a normal working mode, even though I still cannot wait every day to get back into the car.
Q: You have a female manager which is rather unusual in Formula One racing
VP: Shush, a woman is always difficult but lets be serious. I think women are probably the better communicators. You can see that in the fact that most of the media and PR work is done by women. And when negotiating with men, they tend to be more courteous when dealing with a female manager. I think that can lead to something positive.
Q: What is the goal for you this season and, of course, for this weekend?
VP: This weekend it is difficult to say what will happen as we have to see how our development matches that of the other teams. For the season, I will try to keep as close as possible to Robert. Points are very welcome, but the paramount issue is to complete mileage. It is better to be last and to finish, than to be first and not finish the race. As there is not much testing it is better for a newcomer to get as much mileage as possible, to absorb as much as you can, and then after a couple of races perform very strongly. That is how I did it in GP2 and it served me very well.