Exclusive Q&A with Renaults Vitaly Petrov 07 Apr 2011
Renaults Vitaly Petrov made history at last months Australian Grand Prix when he became the first ever Russian to clinch a Formula One podium finish. From St Petersburg to Vladivostok, Russian interest in the sport has skyrocketed and Petrov is determined he wont let his new fans down
Q: Vitaly, how did the world look from the heights of the podium?
Vitaly Petrov: It was really great! To stand there with guys who have won world championships. It was very nice to drink the champagne and to become part of the crowd who have experienced it. Its not that looking down from there makes you think that all those down there are smaller - its nothing like that at all. But for one second you probably feel a bit taller. When I received the trophy, it was an intense feeling of pride in what the team and I had achieved together.
Q: What were your feelings when you climbed out of the car and made your way to the podium?
VP: The emotion of it all was a bit strange. I tried not to be carried away. Yes, I wanted to feel the satisfaction and the pride, but I didnt want to jump up and down like a clown so people could get the wrong impression. Probably I was a little lost in my emotions and it must have been days after that when I started to realise what it really meant.
Q: Ferraris Fernando Alonso seems to be your favoured opponent. Youve kept him behind your Renault twice now
VP: No, thats not fair. Thats racing - I have been quicker than him at just two races. But for sure, in the future, we will have big fights. You can be sure about that.
Q: Your new Renault gave off mixed signals during winter testing but it proved to be very quick in Melbourne. Did you know that it was going to perform so well?
VP: Yes, the winter was not easy. We didnt know where we were and tried some upgrades without really knowing if they would help us. To be fair the Melbourne performance was not such a surprise. But of course you always hope that something like this will be the result of all your winter efforts. When I landed P6 in qualifying - and everybody had been saying that the first qualifying session would give the first real hint of the pecking order - then we knew that we had done a lot of things right. That was a proud moment.
Q: Renault didnt have the easiest off-season, especially after Robert Kubicas accident. But everybody pulled together and you beat Ferrari and Mercedes in Australia. Thats some team spirit
VP: Of course! As you just said it was not a winter period anybody wants to go through. It was not just Roberts accident, our new exhaust was very different from the rest of the field. And believe me we have been working very hard to make the result in Melbourne happen.
Q: Kubicas replacement Nick Heidfeld was supposed to lead the team. But has your Melbourne podium established a different pecking order?
VP: Well, Nick has a lot of experience and this experience is useful to us. Having 10 years of Formula One experience is a commodity that can really help us push the team forward.
Q: Were you surprised by his rather poor performance?
VP: Well, it was the first race so lets wait a bit longer before we speak about any pecking order in the team.
Q: You are the first Russian driver to score a Formula One podium. Are you now a hero in your home country?
VP: Of course I received a lot of calls and TV is suddenly very interested in Formula One. And that is great.
Q: After such a terrific start to the season, have your own personal goals shifted at all?
VP: How does the saying go? One swallow doesnt make a summer. We are realistic and know that the Red Bulls, the McLarens and the Ferraris are the benchmark. And to take a podium again you have to outperform at least four of their drivers, which is a pretty huge task. What helped us in Melbourne was having a perfect strategy and not making any mistakes. But that is hard to repeat every fortnight. Now we have to focus on taking them on with the pure speed of the car because at the moment their cars are quicker than our car.
Q: Last years Malaysian Grand Prix wasnt great for you. What are your expectations for this weekend?
VP: Of course, theres no question about that! I know this track now, I know what to do, know every corner and know how to create a good set-up for the conditions. The big question mark will of course be the tyres, as we have no data to show us how they perform in such extreme temperatures. My guess is that Red Bull is still quickest, McLaren is second, Ferrari maybe third and Renault fourth or better. Who knows! Formula One is a sport where the pack is reshuffled at each and every qualifying session and race. What I can say is that I hope that we will be up there again. We will do everything to make it happen.
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