The heavily-sponsored Vitaly Petrov has been signed to Renault as the team’s second driver
Petrov is known to have significant backing, rumoured to be more than €15M, and was linked to several F1 teams for a 2010 ‘
rent-a-driver’ role berth before committing with Renault.
Despite unconvincing protestations from Renault that it wasn’t interested in Petrov for his money alone, there is no doubt that his substantial backing has eased his path into Renault. Expect to see a wealth of Russian-backed companies’ logos on the Renault sidepods in no time! And if previous Russian sponsors’ involvement in F1 is anything to go by (hello, Gazprom with Minardi), expect many of them not to pay either!
Renault has, of course, been quick to deny that its signing of Petrov had more to do with his (ahem!) talent than the depth of his wallet.
Renault team principal Eric Boullier said: "We just put it simply: either we go for an experienced driver which, on paper, may help to bring back some points for the championship – which is very crucial. Or we go for a
rich young driver.
"One of the things that we wanted was to have a driver with strong
wealth sporting results. This is why Petrov was on the list.
"Obviously going through every criteria that we wanted, we had to decide at one stage, and quite late honestly – experience or gambling on youth? The choice for Vitaly was clearly because he has the
money speed, we believe he has the money speed and can do well. Definitely there is a risk because his sponsors may not pay up he is a young driver, but we had also to think in this process about the team for the future."
Anyone care to wager a bet as to how quickly Vitaly will be booted when: (1) the sponsors’ money never appears and (2) when his evident lack of pace comes to the fore?