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What next for Petrov after rant at Renault?
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Nov 2011   |  10:02 am GMT  |  168 comments

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 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 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?

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There are plenty of drivers around who are capable of doing a better job in the Renault than Petrov. Drivers blaming the car/team is the age old excuse used when one realizes he is simply not up to the task, but cannot accept it themselves (ex. Prost in 1991 .. realized without a vastly superior car he could no longer match the likes of Senna and Mansell). Time for Petrov to go I’m afraid.


I think Petrov had got enough opportunity to prove himself but he failed…For be the best man for Renault 2012 is Romain Grosjean a talented driver who drove for Renault in 2009 along side Fernando Alonso and was just 4-5 tenths of Fernando considering he had not previous F1 experience and compared to Piquet Jr he was awesome…I would love to see him next yr in Formula 1…


Hey James,

Rubens outburst after Germany 2009 were absolutely justified. Again, it was a curious strategy from Brawn which seemed more about what was good for Jenson than what was good for Rubens. Lucky for Mark though – he copped an unfair drive thru penalty and still managed to win the race.

Rubens outburst was a manifestation after what happened in Spain 2009. Where Brawn sabotaged Rubens’ race. After that race, Rubens publicly did not berate his team. However privately he was seething. Rubens is smart enough to know when he has been screwed over. And naturally after he got screwed over again he was perfectly entitled to his outburst. Sure, it wasn’t the smartest move by Rubens, but he was still livid from Spain 2009.

It is one thing to get screwed over by your team, but totally another for them to claim they are not screwing you. Difference between Ferrari, who screw over one team-mate BUT do openly acknowledge they do so VS a Red Bull or Brawn.


He’s done well keeping his mouth shut up until now. Bouillier is a liability.


Indeed – and Boullier is the guy Renault should consider replacing!


Didn’t Jenson say some pretty strong things during his championship year ? I remember one around the middle of the season when things were going wrong along the lines of “How have we made this car so bad ?”

And yes, he did leave at the end of the year, in the end. 🙂


Juan Pablo Montoya swearing to the BMW Williams crew over the radio Magny-Cours 2003 because he thought they had given priority to Ralf Schumacher in the pit stops! Immediately after he signed for McLaren.

Should ask Sam Michael about that one when you see him next James.


He is out of there!


Petrov topic is closed – Renault team boss Eric Boullier

Renault now set good decision. no doubt Petrov will drive 2012 Renault


They have really missed the leadership, the guidance and the direction of Robert Kubica. Their motivation to do well has dropped since his injury. They don’t want to admit this, but we all know that this is the case.


hello James,

speaking about Kubica. I hope he is on track for his recovery (and test drive)?

Kubica x Hulkenberg would be awesome.


I think Petrov hit the nail on the head about Renault. Their development this year has been woeful and their team management has been appalling. Signing Heidfeld was a good idea: proven pace, always brings home points, experience. Yet I do not think they work hard with him and then used him as a scapegoat over their car’s failing pace. Petrov who is the most improved driver since last year clearly sees a lack of development and a lack of love from the management. Renault gave up on this year and I really think Eric has shown his true colours and should be fired.


They should hire Barichello. Put two brazilians in their cars and they’re bound to shave seconds off their lap times.


rants? jochen rindt in his early days at lotus.


A pay driver in an a pay driver lineup, the team is going backward and he is part of the problem, no team that goes from 2 paid drivers to 2 pay drivers recovers.


One should not have to apologize for saying the truth – and truth being that Renault have not been at the top of their game.


So what? Renault was truly awful this season At least he spoke his mind, I can’t stand PR bullshit.


Interesting. It’s true Renault’s development hasn’t worked out this season, but I also wondered if Petrov took his foot off the pedal a bit after Heidfeld left. I think he was disappointed not to be made the no1 after Kubica’s accident and felt he had a point to prove (he intimated as much after his Australia podium); maybe once Heidfeld left there was an element of ‘job done’ and his performances dropped a bit (as well as Renault update problems).

We accuse our drivers of being automatons, but there’s actually been a few in recent years. Lewis Hamilton in Monaco (or in China pre-race) in 2011, Rubens Barrichello in 2009…and what of Fernando Alonso at McLaren?? That time at the Chinese GP when he felt certain Lewis had better tyres during qualifying and ranted about ‘lies’ from Ron Dennis before taking the hinges off one of the doors in the team garage.


67 posts with replies and lots of BLAH, BLAH, BLAH…

I still use Reuben’s quote around the office.


James, on a completely unrelated note, NYTimes (through Reuters) reported at McLaren may be seeking an engine deal with Honda when their current contract with Mercedes ends. Can you substantiate this?


No, my enquiries in Japan today reveal a different picture. Will post on this over weekend


I need to say that I do not like Eric Buldog…


Anyone know why this has just come out now, a week after the interview was recorded?


After the Abu Dhabi race media already had enough to write about Hamilton rising from his ashes. So I guess that media simply prefer to keep it in order to have something to write in the build up the next GP and talk about in the paddock whereas it would have got little attention during the week or already be digested when the F1 circus got to Brazil.


Doesn’t Renault’s Eric Boullier look a bit like Tintín? Like he ate Tintín, I mean.


Jochen Rindt once wrote an open letter published by the media in which he harshly criticized wings for being dangerous (1970) and pleaded to forbid them. The letter was actually addressed to his boss Colin Chapman shortly after Rindt’s heavy crash in Spain for running crazy wings. Chapman didn’t fire him. Better than that: As Rindt refused to continue racing the new and unreliable Lotus 72, willing to run only the old Lotus 49, the team shipped only the Lotus 72 to the title deciding Monza race and let Rindt decide if he wanted to be a world champion or stay in the pits…. At least the team had removed the wing. What happened next is history.

Despite his manners I can only feel sympathy for someone like Petrov talking badly of his team. Don’t forget that they put him in a F1 car where he found himself holding a steering wheel loose from the car!!!


I always thought Kubica went to Renault waiting for Ferrari to sack Massa and get his seat. There was even an article the other day mentioning that Ferrari might test Kubica next year before he gets to drive with Renault.

Back on subject I think this iteration of Renault is a joke, as is Boulier. They have the engineering power but the guys above don’t have the brains to utilize it. They shouldn’t have sacked Heidfeld who was doing alright, Senna is doing worse anyway, I’m surprised they’re even 5th in the standings.

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