I see that Vitaly Petrov has been speaking in German newspaper Bild about the abuse he’s taken on his Facebook page from irate Alonso and Ferrari fans. The Russian managed to keep Alonso behind him for most of the race in Abu Dhabi after Ferrari made a bad strategy call which brought their contender out behind the Renault driver.
In doing so he played a direct hand in the outcome of the world championship and has been attacked from partisan quarters for doing so. The same thing happened two years ago with Timo Glock, who was passed by Lewis Hamilton in the final corner of the last lap in Brazil to give Hamilton the fifth place he needed to become champion.
Glock took a lot of abuse and was cruelly accused of having deliberately slowed to let Hamilton catch and pass him. In the final stages of the race, if you recall, the rain was falling and Toyota had gambled on leaving both cars out on dry tyres. Glock was caught and passed because his tyres lost temperature and grip. The proof of this is that Trulli set similar sector times to Glock in the final two laps.
As with any driver, Glock was only informed of his time gaps relative to the car in front and behind. So he would have had no idea that Massa had won the race, nor of the circumstances. The abuse he and the team got from the anti-Hamilton brigade was horrendous, I’m told.
So now Petrov is feeling what it is like to be the “other guy” the one who plays kingmaker and inadvertently gives one of the title contenders the crown.
“I kept Alonso behind me for 39 laps,” said Petrov, “But no-one told me on the radio that by doing this I would make Sebastian world champion. In any case even if he had passed me he would have had to also pass Rosberg. I did my race.”
Alonso was furious, pulling alongside Petrov and making an abusive hand gesture to him on the slow down lap. He had clearly forgotten the praise he drew five years earlier when he held Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari behind him for the last part of the San Marino Grand Prix. Granted he was fighting for the world championship, but Petrov was fighting for position in the race and there is no reason why he should have let Alonso through.
“I know he was beside himself, ” said Petrov of Alonso’s gesture, “But his manners were not elegant. I was just faster than him.”
Petrov’s drive certainly gave the Renault F1 team management a positive way to remember him as they deliberate on whether to retain his services next season. I sense that there is a lot of potential Russian sponsorship money the team is chasing and they would prefer to keep him for that reason.
Of course the ongoing saga with Group Lotus taking a stake in the team and a title sponsorship rumbles on and may have some bearing on this situation.
The deal was due to be signed the week after the final race, but as yet there is no announcement as the political arm wrestling with Group Lotus and its Malaysian government own backer Proton on the one hand and Tony Fernandes’ Lotus Racing o the other, continues.