Russia’s first F1 driver Vitaly Petrov has unleashed a broadside against his team, Renault, accusing them of a lack of development, poor race strategy and sloppy pit work. It throws doubt over whether he will continue with the team in 2012.
The 27 year old, who has started 37 races with the team, stood on the podium at the first race in Australia and feels that it’s been a downward slide into midfield mediocrity ever since.
Renault came out with an highly imaginative front facing exhaust this season, which exited at the front of the sidepods. Although it looked quick in the early races, it didn’t work out as hoped and the development direction since then has not taken the team forwards up the grid.
That said, since Germany Petrov has qualified and raced in the top ten five times out of nine races. However he has only added five points to his tally during that time and some of the strategy plans have been curious.
“We have lost positions in about 10 races or even more,” said a frustrated Petrov in an interview hours after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Russian TV. “Even without a fast car we could have gained good points, we could have finished with points if we had had a good strategy.
“But I couldn’t say in interviews that we lost it with the pitstops, and I cannot talk about that now either. But I can’t keep silent any more – it is over. I can’t keep everything inside any more.”
Renault started trialling a rear facing exhaust in Germany but as the car had been designed around the front facing exhaust concept and the rear body area was too wide to optimise the rear facing exhausts, it required a lot of work to redo the back of the car and sidepods during the summer break.
There have been plenty of new wings, including a new Red Bull-style flexi front wing in Abu Dhabi last weekend, but the underlying pace of the car has gone, compared to the early races, as Force India and Toro Rosso in particular have improved. Having started the season ahead of Mercedes, they’ve been passed as Mercedes has moved ahead into its own space ahead of the midfield, but behind the top three teams, where Renault was aiming to be.
“When the windtunnel developments came, the new parts, because of the front exhausts, they didn’t work,” complained Petrov. “We worked on the front wing, the rear wing, the diffusers, the floor – but whatever we changed it was useless.
“For about 10 races we didn’t have anything, so in fact we have had the same car with which we started the season.”
So where does this leave Petrov? Would he have said these things if he was certain to be racing next season with the team? It has been looking increasingly likely that Romain Grosjean would take up one of the seats next year and with Petrov struggling to lead the team in the absence of Robert Kubica, there have been suggestions lately that the team needs to take a new direction on drivers. Although Petrov has a contract for 2012, he doesn’t sound like a driver who’s expecting to be sitting in the car next year.
“Unfortunately I cannot say anything bad about the team, it says so in my contract,” said Petrov, who observed that if a world champion like Kimi Raikkonen can be moved aside with a pay-off then what chance does he have?
Renault team boss Eric Boullier is a very tough character who will not take kindly to this outburst. He and the Genii management at Renault know that 2011 has not been good enough. The team has 72 points, which is only 11% of the Red Bull total using the same engine.
Last season they ended with 163 points – 32% of Red Bull’s total. They are still fifth in the championship, however.
Petrov’s place in the team was always linked to the Genii plan of expanding its business in Russia. But there hasn’t been the flow of Russian companies into the team that they might have expected, Lada (which was a tie in with Renault) and a vodka company are the only obvious partners.
Our colleagues at F1news.ru have sent me this update this morning.
They spoke to Petrov’s manager Oksana Kossatchenko, who said, “Vitaly happened to be not ready to work in such an emotional situation, and in order to avoid such things in the future, probably, his contacts with media immediately after the sessions would be limited. Vitaly needs time to think over everything that happened during the race before contacting journalists.
“As a result I have to apologize to Russian journalists that have been waiting to meet Vitaly after the end of the season. I am sorry to say but the press-conference for Russian media scheduled for December would be cancelled.
“Vitaly’s management considers the interview as absolutely not prepared, too emotional, and to guarantee that nothing like that happens in the future we have to work with Vitaly to prepare him for that kind of interviews.
“And one important thing more: some days ago we had a discussion with the team how to build the communication policy in general. And we agreed to keep everything inside the team because of ethical reasons.
“We spoke about it with Eric Boullier and Gerard Lopez, but immediately after the compromise had been reached, the balance was destroyed by the driver”.
Petrov has apologised to the team and Boullier has said he considers the matter closed.
If you can read Russian here is a link to the F1news.ru story
What driver rants do you most clearly remember? Like Rubens Barrichello’s rant against Brawn in Germany 2009 “They made me lose the race” – Post your favourites below together with the outcome – Did the driver stay or go after his outburst?