Vitaly Petrov has joined Caterham F1 as a race driver, raplacing Jarno Trulli. Petrov will race alongside Heikki Kovalainen in 2012.
Petrov, Formula One’s first Russian driver, became available when his contract with Lotus (last year’s Renault) was terminated early. With a podium in Australia in 2011, Petrov has shown promise as a Formula One driver. He has spent two years with the Renault team, and now takes that experience with him to Caterham.
Vitaly Petrov: “This is a very exciting day for me. I would like to thank Tony, Kamarudin Meranun and SM Nasarudin for giving me the chance to join a team that made its F1 debut at the same time as me, and has grown from one of the new teams to a serious force for future honours. The passion and spirit that Tony and the whole team have to keep moving forwards is infectious, and I am honoured to be able to join them and play my part in helping the team mount a serious challenge to the teams ahead in 2012 and for many seasons to come.
“I have been training hard all winter and am ready to get back into the cockpit and go to work. From what I have seen already, our new car is another good step forward from 2011 and now I cannot wait to see how it feels when we get to Barcelona. I would also like to take this chance to thank all my fans and partners for their support and their patience.”
Trulli is now without a drive for 2012. All of the race seats have been filled for this season, and so it seems as if Trulli may be staring in the face of early retirement. He is extremely experienced, and is known for his pace in the car, so he may be in demand as a test driver.
Trulli departs from Caterham by agreement with the team. He commented: “I want to take this chance to thank Tony, Kamarudin, SM Nasarudin, Riad, Mike and everyone in the team for the two seasons we had together. From zero we built up and established a solid F1 team. I’m really proud to have been part of it. I understand the decision the team has made and I want to wish to the whole team the very best of luck for the season ahead.”
Petrov will be in action at the second pre-season test in Barcelona, which starts on Tuesday.
Lotus Renault GP have already filled one seat for 2012, with Kimi Räikkönen coming out of retirement. The other seat is a matter of much speculation.
Russian Vitaly Petrov has a contract for 2012 that gives him a race seat. He also comes with substantial sponsorship. In his 2 seasons with Renault he has stood on the podium, and generally looks to have developed as a Formula 1 driver. However, Renault have not yet confirmed that he will drive in 2012, which of course suggests that he might not. If his place in the team were already decided, Renault would have announced it already. So Petrov’s position is in doubt.
Bruno Senna has driven for Renault for the last 8 races of the 2011 season. His performances have been mixed, but he has shown that he has the speed to compete at the highest level. He does not have a contract to race in 2012, but will be hoping that his 2011 performances will assist him in finding one.
Romain Grosjean raced for Renault in 7 races of the 2009 season. In that time, his highest finish was 13th, and his performances were unmemorable. It was thought that he might be a bit inexperienced to compete in Formula 1. After the disappointment of 2009, he returned to GP2 (Formula 1’s primary feeder series) and won the 2011 title comfortably. Renault signed him up as a reserve driver towards the end of 2011, which shows that they think he has developed as a driver. He is a strong contender for the race seat alongside Räikkönen.
It is quite unfortunate that these three drivers seem to be in competition for a single seat. All three have Formula 1 experience, speed and skill. But of course Renault can only choose one. Will it be Petrov with some experience and sponsorship, Senna with his amazing racing pedigree, or Grosjean with his recent GP2 form? Renault have stated that they will make an announcement by 10 December. We can only wait til then to find out.