Caterham has wasted little time in tapping into the opportunities the presence of Vitaly Petrov in its driver line-up offers up in the Russian sponsorship market by announcing the arrival of the country’s largest petrochemical firm, SIBUR.
SIBUR was already a personal sponsor of Petrov when he drove for Renault last season and, in addition to its logos appearing on the Russian’s race suits, will also feature on Caterham’s CT01 this season.
Following the decision to drop Jarno Trulli in favour of Petrov at the end of last week, Caterham team co-owner Tony Fernandes acknowledged the decision had been made partly with “a realistic eye on the global economic market” – Petrov’s debut in 2010 having provoked an increase in Formula 1’s popularity in Russia at large, as well as in the commercial sector.
Speaking about the SIBUR tie-up, Fernandes says the firm’s keenness to get involved in F1 underlines the commercial platform the sport can supply: “We are delighted to welcome SIBUR into our team and to help them continue their relationship in F1 with Vitaly, and now with Caterham F1 Team.
“F1 is a truly global sport, and SIBUR’s investment in our sport is proof of the value F1 can bring, on a national and international level, so we are looking forward to working closely with Mr Konov [company CEO] and his team at SIBUR to help them realize maximum benefit from this partnership.”
SIBUR’s Dmitry Konov made clear the importance of Petrov’s continued presence on the grid was to Russia, which is due to stage its inaugural grand prix in 2014: “I’m very glad that Vitaly’s career in Formula 1 is continuing with such an exciting new role at Caterham F1 Team. Vitaly plays a very important role for us, and all Russians. “It is a real pleasure for us to continue our partnership in 2012, when Russia – thanks to Petrov as well – takes another step closer to Formula 1.”
The continued uncertainty that dogs the economic climate, particularly in Europe, means that drivers who can bring with them sponsorship from their native markets are an increasingly valuable commodity for a number of teams. But speaking in an exclusive interview with JA on F1 last Friday, Petrov bristled at suggestions that the backing he receives from Russia outweighed his talents as a driver.
“I think in 2011 they [the critics] are not allowed to talk anymore about this because the pay driver cannot achieve their first podium and then to finish so many times on the points,” he said. “I think this is not right to talk about [these] things. Also [to] be quicker than Nick [Heidfeld] and be quicker than Bruno [Senna] and other drivers. So I think we need to forget about [suggestions that] we came just for pay.”