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Exclusive Vitaly Petrov Q&A: Senna is doing a fantastic job 27 Aug 2011

Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 26 August 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 26 August 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 26 August 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 26 August 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 26 August 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 27 August 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 26 August 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 26 August 2011

The Belgian race weekend started with a bang for Renault when the team announced Nick Heidfeld was to be replaced by third driver Bruno Senna. But the move already seems to have paid off with both cars making it through to Q3 in qualifying and Senna managing to outperform more experienced team mate Vitaly Petrov. We caught up with Petrov to find out his thoughts on Senna's arrival and the R31’s improving performance…

Q: Vitaly, you have a new team mate this weekend - and have been outperformed by him. How would you judge Bruno Senna’s Renault race debut?
Vitaly Petrov:
So far he has done a fantastic job on his first race weekend for Renault. Okay, he knows this track well from other series and it was wet most of the day which always makes it easier for a rookie, as it was with me last year. But that doesn’t detract from his performance. He can be very proud of his result today.

Q: But how does it feel to have been outperformed by him?
VP:
I have no issue with it at all. Actually qualifying was very difficult and I’ve ruined my tyres. I think it was one of the most difficult qualifying sessions of the season so far because of the permanently changing track conditions. Then in Q3 I spun in Turn 16 when I lost the grip on the rear end. I still don’t know why it happened. So taking this lapse into account, I am not too unhappy with my tenth place. Probably I am a bit angry with myself as Q1 and Q2 worked very well - and then there was this stupid mistake! But it was my first mistake in Q3 this year so I guess I can live with it.

Q: At the beginning of the qualifying session Jenson Button said that the conditions here are worse than those we saw in Montreal. Would you agree?
VP:
Montreal was much easier. Because it rained. Period. But here it rained, then it got dry, then it rained again so you never knew when to push. Should you secure a lap time at the beginning in case it rains later in the session, or do you need to save your tyres and push towards the end? it was a gamble. And taking all that into account I can say that we’ve got it pretty right with both cars.

Q: You dominated Nick Heidfeld for most of the season but now you have a new challenge – Senna. Is it making you feel uneasy?
VP:
Absolutely not. I just wasn’t able to show my full potential today. When I spun, my tyres were completely ruined and there wasn’t time left to put on any new ones so I have to live with that fact. Bruno didn’t make any mistakes. But don’t forget it wasn’t just me who got out-performed by Bruno. Very famous names like Fernando Alonso will start the race behind a rookie. So Bruno, be proud of what you did! (laughs)

Q: The last race in Hungary was tricky for Renault. Are you racing with any updates this weekend?
VP:
Yes, but not huge ones. It looks like they are working but it is difficult to make a final judgment because of the conditions today. All practice sessions have been in the wet and only qualifying in the dry - that leaves much room for analyzing what has happened.

Q: The team seemed to get in trouble when the April updates that were supposed to be a huge step forward were in the end two steps back. Has the team now overcome those ‘April showers’?
VP:
Yes, we suffered back then and it haunted us for some races, but if you take this weekend so far it looks like the troubles are behind us. But let’s wait for the race to see what the state of affairs is. But definitely we’ve stepped up this weekend.

Q: Your team principal Eric Boullier has said that the team tried to shield you from the issues they had with Heidfeld. But all cannot have gone unnoticed by you…
VP:
All that has happened was a team decision and had nothing to do with me. It is up to them to decide who to put in the car so I was entirely focused on my own affairs. I stick to my side of the garage because there is nothing for me to do in such a situation.

Q: What about the missing leadership qualities that the team was apparently missing? Was that an issue for you as well?
VP:
I don’t know what was expected from him - and I think it is a difficult question to answer and many things in the end boil down to a lack of communication ability. Because when you as a driver say what in your opinion is wrong with a car it doesn’t automatically translate into a technical change in the factory.

Q: When you see that the team hires and fires drivers in the blink of an eye are you afraid the same might happen to you?
VP:
I feel perfectly secure. I have a contract for next year so it doesn’t matter to me who my team mate will be.

Q: It’s your second season and we’ve just learned from Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost that you need to give a rookie three years to evaluate him. Is Renault going to give you three years?
VP:
Well, in the end we have seen that a lot of things can happen very quickly in Formula One. The best way to be on the safe side is to deliver good performances. But look at the season so far. At the first two races we were really fast and had two podium finishes but then another five races down the line we ended up being really slow without really knowing why. Of course we drivers always want to give our best - and so does the team - and sometimes it’s just not working.

Q: It’s been quite a while since Renault had both cars in Q3. Why are you back up there today do you think?
VP:
Remember when the conditions were a bit similar in Silverstone we were nowhere. Fifteenth or sixteenth, or whatever. So what you’ve seen today is definitely down to a car improvement. But of course you always need good moment as well. But that goes for all the teams up and down the paddock!

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