Vitaly Petrov and his management have had to engage in a serious amount of backpedalling after the Russian openly criticised his employers, Renault, over the team’s dreadful second half of the season.
In a recent interview on the Rossiya 2 network, the 27-year-old slammed the team’s rate of development over the season, as well as a succession of race errors that have cost the Enstone outfit better results.
Walking a very dangerous tightrope, Petrov acknowledged that he was in breach of his contract by criticising his employers.
“Unfortunately I cannot say anything bad about the team, it says so in my contract,” he said in the interview.
“We have lost positions in about ten races or even more. 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 pit stops, 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.”
After the first nine races of the season, Renault had picked up two podium finishes and was a regular top-ten qualifier, sitting pretty on 65 championship points in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
But in the following nine races, the outfit has scored just seven more points and its pace has fallen away dramatically as ongoing refinements to the R31 challenger have delivered absolutely no progress. Certainly, the team’s decision to fire Petrov’s team-mate, Nick Heidfeld, has been called into question on several occasions.
“For the first five or six races, we looked really strong,” Petrov acknowledged.
“We could not fight with Ferrari, Red Bull or McLaren, but we were quite close to Ferrari and much faster than Mercedes.
“But when the wind tunnel developments came, the new parts, because of the front exhausts, they didn’t work. 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.”
While undoubtedly justified, Petrov’s extraordinary outburst didn’t go down well with Renault management, and there were suggestions made that the former GP2 race-winner could be out on his ear, despite holding a contract to race with the team in 2012.
“It was an emotional interview,” his manager Oksana Kossatchenko told the Reuters news agency.
“The management has discussed it with Vitaly already,” she added. “It was an exception and he apologised afterwards to the team. It will never happen again.”