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Exclusive Vitaly Petrov Q&A: Renault can rely on me 19 Feb 2011

Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain,  Friday, 18 February 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain,  Saturday, 19 February 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain,  Saturday, 12 February 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday, 1 February 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain,  Friday, 18 February 2011

To lose your lead driver only weeks before the season starts and just days into the life of your new car is unfortunate to say the least. Robert Kubica was the centrepiece of Renault’s plans to take on the frontrunners in 2011. But team mate Vitaly Petrov - now starting only his second F1 season under difficult circumstances - is convinced that Renault must not change their ambitions, nor he his…

Q: Vitaly, how is the team without Robert?
Vitaly Petrov:
It is difficult to say because Robert was an important part of the team, but I think the team should move forward because we cannot get frozen at one point. With Nick (Heidfeld), an experienced driver has joined us so that gives hope. Let’s put it this way: life is like that - sometimes very unpredictable and cruel.

Q: What is the priority now for the team and for yourself? With the lead driver not there anymore, that could also have a significant effect on your career…
Let’s look back: my first year has been quite difficult so it was very important for me to have a strong team mate. This year we have lost Robert but we did find Nick, who comes with a lot of experience. But I also have much more experience than last season, with one year of Formula One under my belt and knowing much more, so the team can also work and rely on me.

Q: Robert clearly was the leader and you had somebody to follow and learn from. How will it be now?
I will be concentrating on my own racing. True, we have been working together for one year and trying to build a competitive car, so it is a pity that it is not like this anymore.

Q: So far the Barcelona test was a bit troublesome for Renault. What happened?
We had some KERS problems and it was quite tricky to find exactly where the glitch was. But we’ve found it and eliminated it, so we are sure that this problem will not haunt us during the season. You could say that the bad made the good and I prefer to have problems during testing - that is why we are testing - to have a more carefree season.

Q: You said recently that you are ready to play a bigger role - what do you envisage? A bigger role in what?
Well, it’s nothing particular, as there will not be a significant change since we are working in the same mode now that we used to work last year. I receive the same parts, the same info, the same everything, so there has not been a change to my understanding.

Q: We hear that Robert’s recovery has been making huge steps forward, but it is still too early to say whether he will return this season. So what do you expect from Nick Heidfeld?
What should I expect from him? He is an experienced guy - he used to race alongside Robert - so I believe we will remain a strong team just as it would have been with Robert.

Q: The saying goes you should never trust test times, but from what we saw from Robert in the first test in Valencia, it suggested Renault could be the dark horse of the 2011 season - with Robert. What will happen now?
Forget about the lap times. Don’t even look at them. Last season we didn’t see that Red Bull would be so fast in the tests. Everything will be clear at the first race - until then everything is guessing, as everybody can be at the top of the time sheet at the tests if he so wishes - that’s no miracle. But we don’t need that. We are working on our programme as everybody else does. We are trying to get as much data from the car and the tyres as possible - and lap times don’t mean a thing.

Q: Renault team principal Eric Boullier said that the R31 is a bit extreme. Will you and Nick be able to handle its abilities?
Of course it is (extreme). You always build a car at the limit. Otherwise it wouldn’t be Formula One. I would say that at the moment our car looks pretty good. And yes, I think the team has pushed the design to the very limit. Of course I hope that Nick and I can handle this car as it was planned from the engineers.

Q: Coming back to last season, have the Ferrari fans forgiven you?
The Spanish ones yes. You see they take photos of me, they smile at me and I don’t need bodyguards. What happened in Abu Dhabi was racing. Somebody wins, somebody loses. I was doing my own race there and with time gone by people have started to understand. It was just the first emotion that was running a bit wild.

Q: It took quite some time for Renault to confirm you for 2011 - what was the issue?
That doesn’t matter. It was the team’s decision. Now everybody is happy.

Q: Have you visited Robert? How did you find him?
It was already some days ago that I visited him. How did I find him? That is really difficult to answer. He looked so damaged and he understood what was going on. I hope he will come back soon.

Q: Under the difficult conditions the team are facing, what do you expect from this season?
For me it will be very important not to make too many mistakes, to try to finish all the races and, of course, try to fight for the top ten. This is our target.

Q: That sounds as if you are looking forward to a promising season…
Of course!

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