Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

What I would do with Vitaly Petrov // A review of the Russian driver's future in Formula One

Published by Christine

This year, there is very little to discuss in terms of silly season movements, as most drivers appear content where they are. The one question mark really remains over LRGP, and Robert Kubica has stepped up to become the driver that holds the key to the remainder of the market.

Until recently this was a role played Fernando Alonso, before he finally made that move to Ferrari. Now, it is the injured Pole's turn, and we'll reportedly find out whether he's fit enough to return to F1 next year, in November.

The potential reappearance of Kubica at LRGP raises two questions - where does Vitaly Petrov fit in if he does come back and where does Vitaly Petrov fit in if he doesn't come back?

Petrov makes himself at home
Petrov makes himself at homeCredit: Eric Vargiolu / DPPI

You have to own it

In the recently released An Aside with Joe, there is talk of what LRGP might do if Kubica returns, as well as thoughts on how the ownership of the team will affect their decisions. LRGP have a few driver names to choose from, but only two seats, and whoever heads up the group will have a different view over the best way to narrow it down.

Let us speculate that Robert Kubica does return. Who might partner him for 2012?

If Genii Capital retain control of the team, then they are likely to need money and that would lead you straight to the door of Bruno Senna. He is currently settling into the car, gaining race experience and at least matching, if not beating, his teammate.

Another option might be Lotus Group taking full control, with Dany Behar moving up from title sponsor to team owner. Group Lotus are owned by Proton, a Malaysian company, and they might see benefit in running Malaysian driver Fairuz Fauzy - one of the many teams current reserve drivers.

Finally, if the Renault company want to get back into Formula One at a level greater than their current engine supplier status offers, then they'll likely want to bring Romain Grosjean in - running a French driver in a French team.

On the market

Those three scenarios, regardless of which occurs, might leave Vitaly Petrov bumped out of the team, which is something I'm keen to avoid. I like the Russian driver, I think he did well under pressure at the beginning of the season, and has done his best as car performance has tailed off. If he's left without a Renault race seat, is there anywhere else he can go?

I pondered the idea that, as F1's only Russian driver, there might be a place for Petrov at Virgin - given the team's moves to bring in more of the Marussia and less of the Virgin. There are two perfectly good drivers there already, of course, but it's fair to say that Jérôme D'Ambrosio is the weaker and less experienced of the pairing.

Petrov switching to Virgin does mean we'd be unlikely to see another International Day of Petrov any time soon, which would be a disappointment.

Recovery time

I'm basing all of this on the idea that Robert Kubica will definitely be coming back to Formula One next year. Although I really want to see him return, and hope he can get back to battling at the top again, it is by no means a certainty. He suffered some terrible injuries this year, and recuperation may take just that little bit longer. Kubica certainly sounds keen to return, but you can never really tell until a driver has experienced F1's high speeds and high pressure once more.

If Kubica didn't come back, would LRGP be likely to keep Petrov? They've already shown they're not adverse to switching drivers if something is not working, however the distinct lack of performance even after Nick Heidfeld was replaced shows that the 2011 car is technologically challenged.

In fact, the key to Petrov's future probably lies in the hands of Senna at this moment in time. The Brazilian has returned to F1 and has immediately been on the pace, outqualifying and outracing his teammate. If he continues in this fashion until the end of the year, the decision to drop Petrov could already be made, with or without the return of Kubica.