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Caterham lands first Russian sponsor in wake of Petrov arrival
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Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Feb 2012   |  11:35 am GMT  |  47 comments

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.”

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47 Comments
  1. franed says:

    Yeah well we all thought it had to be that!

  2. Steve Rogers says:

    I find Caterham’s frankness about the realities of its business very refreshing. Keep this transparency going and I’m sure it will help you to succeed.

    1. John Butcher says:

      It is certainly nice to see a team be so honest regarding pay drivers. its a difficult time financially and im sure that sponsorship may have been easier to attract with the name lotus than with the name caterham. i have a lot of time and respect for the team as they have conducted themselves very well since they got a spot on the grid unlike the likes of campos/hispania and manor/virgin/marussia who have never seemed to take it too seriously

  3. Stefanos says:

    “Wasted little time…” sounds like they only went after the sponsorship after they signed Petrov and not the other way around. He is a pay driver, regardless of performance.

    I fully take the argument that he was quick last year and when he eliminates the mistakes he may have good speed, but I don’t take the argument that he is quicker than a lot of the guys out there who don’t have the money. It is a very blurry line, I admit.

    1. Davexxx says:

      Yes I agree, and was surprised with this article headline! It’s obvious that Petrov was taken on after assurances that sponsors would be part of the deal!

  4. Craigy J says:

    I have to say I’m not the worlds biggest Petrov fan but I accept he is decent driver in his ow right who also brings sponsorship with him. However can Petrov really say he was quicker than Heidfeld?

    Over the same number of races:

    Petrov scored less points than Heidfeld (and even with aan additional 8 races under his belt only scored 3 more points than him!!!).

    Petrov had less points finishes than Heidfeld.

    Heidfeld only failed to finish in the points twice (excluding retirements) whereas Petrov failed on 5 occassions.

    So in what way was Petrov faster than Heidfeld? The only reason he didn’t get the boot over the German was cold hard cash from sponsorship which is exactly the same reason he has secured a seat above Trulli (who I admit has not been sparkling for a number of years).

    1. Davexxx says:

      Yes of course he’s trying to toot his own horn but sorry, the fact remains he’s only in because of the money he’s brought! He wouldn’t be there otherwise. As you said, sure he’s not a bad driver, but not a lot better than others who are left on the sidelines right now. I have a feeling he’s not going to be Russia’s Golden Boy and I bet they will be hurrying to find another Russian to replace him – with Bernie’s help too (since Bernie hopes to break into Russia)!

    2. Brad says:

      Fact is he did score some points…. and Heidfeld had 10 more years experience…

      I’m glad Petrov is still in F1, he has some potential….

      1. Andrew Kirk says:

        Would have picked Heidfeld myself but can understand Caterham need more money in light of their techincal signings.

    3. CartRider says:

      It appears that these days the pool of sponsors a driver can bring to a team has become a part of the overall package of that driver – just look at the selection process at Williams this year. So Petrov doesn’t become a pay driver simply because he brought in some money to the team. It’s more complicated than that. He was selected based on his merit, too.

  5. Franco says:

    Hi James

    Are you aware if Caterham are paying Petrov a salary? If not then surely he must be a pay driver.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys says:

      Fracno, I think most drivers get paid – even if they are paying for the seat themselves. That might sound like a bit of a contradiction, but the driver only gets paid a fraction of what they bring to the team. I think the lowest-paid driver in 2011 (I don’t remember who it was) got around $250,000 while they brought several million to their team.

      Besides, drivers have to be paid. How else would they live from day to day with no other source of income?

  6. RichardB says:

    sorry petrov but without SIBUR backing you wouldn’t have got the drive and that makes you a pay driver. however your talented enough to deserve a place on the grid unlike some

  7. Brent McMaster says:

    I am glad to see Petrov back in, I think he has grown. There is no doubt that F1 needs sponsor money and Russia is a huge untapped market. I have always respected Trulli,very “Grand Prix” being a good F1 racer and a wine maker, but he is getting less and less consistent.

  8. Paul Barrass says:

    I actually quite like Petrov, and think he’s quite quick on his day. Given who he’s replacing, and what Trulli brought to the team last year and the previous year, I think even without sponsorship I would rather have Vitaly than Trulli. I think consistency, and brushing out his numerous errors could see him being around for a long time yet.

  9. robert says:

    I wouldnt have thought getting beaten most weeks by Heiki would do Petrov, or his Russian sponsors much good.

    1. Kevin Green says:

      Would not be betting on that 1 for too long :/

  10. Dmitry says:

    (to Petrov) Yeah? Not a pay driver?

    Please, tell it to someone else…

  11. Ivan says:

    No matter what Petrov says, money and politics (i.e. having in mind the impending introduction and promotion of F1 in Russia) definitely outweigh his driver qualities. I can hardly imagine him bringing more value to the new Caterham team than the experienced Truly…

    1. db4tim says:

      I wonder what the real minimum and the going rate to buy a seat for a year in F1 is…anyone?

      1. Dmitry says:

        One (some) Alcohol company sponsorship deal and one (some) Oil company sponsorship deal! =)

  12. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Imagine for a minute you have already Heiki and only one more seat in 2012 and it comes only Petrov and Trulli WITHOUT SPONSORS…

    Which one you choose?

    My choice would be Petrov.

    1. Stefanos says:

      How about Buemi, Alguesuari, Sutil, Barichelo, all having lost a seat in 2012? Still Petrov?

      1. Tornillo Amarillo says:

        Buemi was not getting podiums, Petrov was.

        Alguesuari was impeding a top Driver to pass (Vettel) in a practice, Petrov was impeding another (Alonso) with talent in a race to be Champion.

        Sutil has a sentence, so you cannot get him after he is cleared.

        Barichello was a 2nd driver, so you cannot expect miracles after 19 years, however Petrov wants to show something… He will be laughing at the Lotus problems!

  13. Mark says:

    Is it me or is there a trend in F1 where any potential driver from a developing nation (in terms of motorsport and F1 marketplace) is expected to bring extensive sponsorship money with them rather than just relying on proven talent. It’s happened with the Indian, Mexican and now Russian drivers

    This to me highlighs the slight snobery that exists within F1 and the problems facing young talent who have no viable feeder series from developing motorsport nations.

    Motorsports will always be a rich mans sport but if you were an F1 team manager with the choice between a young british upcoming talent who has won all the UK motorsport championships they have competed in or a Russian driver who has won everything they have raced in their homeland then you can understand why Petrov has had to bring lots of money with him to get in with a chance of a drive.

    1. Phil says:

      I see your point to some degree, but look at Sutil for an example. As a youngster from a developed nation, he got his shot because of sponsorship. Whereas Massa didn’t have massive sponsor backing. So it’s not just those countries you mention, but it does seem to be more than often.

      1. Mark Crooks says:

        Sutil is from a developed nation yet in the eyes of many he isn’t/wasn’t considered a pay driver, yet Petrov is. Your example just goes some way to prove my point.

      2. Phil says:

        But at the beginning of his career Sutil was ‘pay driver’. His drives with Spyker/Midlands were heavily based on the sponsorship dollar (aka pay) that he bought to the table. But overtime, people realised that he was decent and lost the pay driver tag, despite still bringing mssive $$ from Median.

    2. Housey says:

      Decent point

  14. db4tim says:

    After reviewing their site for a bit, they possibly could be the most stable business that could have or would have offered up any money for this seat. They do have a huge company doing a wide diversity of petrochemicals in that region….and VP needs stability, no matter where it comes from.

  15. Stone the crows says:

    And herein lies the difference between Petrov and Trulli. In Russia, Petov is the great white hope, in Italy Trulli is one (long of tooth) Formula One driver among many and hardly ‘meglio.’ It is no discredit to Trulli as a person and a talent, but his mere presence in F-1 wasn’t going to compel Italian Petrochemmical Manufacturers to drop and chunk of change in his support. I must say well done to Tony Fernandes, he continues to take the right steps to move his team to the front.

  16. Oliver says:

    Im not quite sure how pay drivers make a living. Do they still get a salary from the team, it just so happens they put in more than they take out. Or do they just take a chunk of the sponsors money to live on?

    1. Dmitry says:

      They have rich family members, who can give their kids some money to “play cars”…

    2. Stefanos says:

      Usually a cut from the sponsorship money. The team pays the expenses.

  17. anonymous says:

    Petrov can believe what he wants, the reality is: Without massive help from his sponsors he wouldn’t have got this seat. So obviously his talent has not been the decision-maker.

  18. Giuseppe F1 says:

    Great scoop James as havent seen this news featured anywhere else yet. Loving the blog. Was also wondering if you had any further update on when you will likely be publishing your update on ‘LOTUS v LOTUS 2 aka Bahar v Lopez’….cannot wait to read your insight and views – do you think you will be publishing it before the season starts? Continued thanks on the great blog Sir

  19. RNF says:

    Never saw this coming…j/k

  20. Methusalem says:

    Why was Petrov not available to Marussia?

  21. Money makes the world go round – the wheels of F1 are no different. The cash has to come from somewhere, why is this a shock to everyone?

    1. db4tim says:

      Because we are a bit tired of pay for rides
      ..and the classic tracks going away
      ..and BE running all over the world building tracks that will struggle to host three events.

      ..and on and on and on :(

      1. I’d rather see all of that rather than nothing at all. I’m all for the classic tracks and the most talented drivers in the best cars but the world economy simply won’t support that at the moment. If a driver brings money to a team and ensures it’s continued operation that is a very good thing.

        F1 is all about development, evolution and change. Let’s stop complaining and enjoy the show.

        Any way you slice it, F1 is F1.

      2. db4tim says:

        the problem with your theory “evolution and change”….no matter all the money does not yield talent…they are only pack fillers

  22. Jon Wilde says:

    I really hope this doesn’t mean the Caterham car will have Lada logos on the sidepods!!

    1. Stone the crows says:

      Renault owns 25 percent of Lada. That could be a good connection given Caterham uses Renault engines, or it could be a bad connection given the recent unpleasantness with Lotus/Renault.

  23. Steve Rogers says:

    I think Petrov has more flair than either Trulli or Heidfeld – rather like Kobayashi perhaps – and am hoping to see some entertainment and some surprising results from him.

    1. Rich C says:

      He definitely appears to have more ‘pizzaz’.

  24. alex baker says:

    i think petrov had a much better season than trulli last year and at the end of the day if he had have matched kova i doubt he would have been replaced

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