After the Lotus Renault GP team announced a wholesale change in its driver line-up during the off-season, it seemed that Vitaly Petrov would be one of several drivers from the 2011 crop who would find himself on the F1 unemployment list in 2012.
But he was given a reprieve when a last-minute deal was signed to see him replace Jarno Trulli at the Caterham F1 team. It was no secret that his considerable Russian backing was a factor in the Hingham team’s decision to bring him on, but Petrov also showed he had the pace to warrant a place in F1, as was evidenced his maiden podium finish here a year ago.
The Vyborg-born driver has had relatively little running in Caterham’s new CT01 challenger, and there were concerns that he would struggle to fit into the new car, which had been designed around his predecessor’s much shorter frame.
To our great pleasure, Vitaly sat down and spoke with RichardsF1.com about his hopes for the season ahead…
How tough was the period between losing your drive at Lotus Renault GP and securing the role with Caterham?
It was tough, it was a long winter. It was difficult to make the right decision over what to do for the future.
We had good discussions between us and Caterham, and the contract was sorted quickly. We found a good deal and I’m very happy to be here.
How have you settled into the new environment at Caterham, particularly it being a smaller operation than Lotus Renault GP? What have been your initial impressions of the car?
I think it’s a good team. They’re working hard to improve the car and move towards the front of the field. At the end, we’ll see what happens.
Despite reports to the contrary, the CT01 has been a good fit for me. It’s actually been more comfortable than last year’s R31, so I was pleasantly surprised.
We had a fantastic final four days of testing. We didn’t have any mechanical problems. The car doesn’t look too bad, so it’s just a case of seeing where we are among the competition.
We have Red Bull’s KERS this year for the first time. It’s working quite well and we’ve had no issues with it. There’s still plenty of work to do to keep improving the car.
You finished on the podium here last year. How much does Melbourne hold a special place in your heart?
Of course, it’s special because I achieved the best result of my F1 career here. To finish on the podium was an amazing feeling and I was so happy.
I’m always happy to come back here; it’s a wonderful atmosphere, with great food and people The fans here are amazing.
What would you be happy with as far as the 2012 season is concerned? Have you set yourself any specific targets to achieve in your first season with the new team?
This is a difficult question to answer. I don’t know what to predict because I don’t yet know what to expect from the team. We will see what happens; I will certainly be working hard and we’ll see what we can try to do.
Next year we’ll see Russia join the F1 calendar with its own Grand Prix. Can you tell us more about the support you’ve received from your homeland and what you expect the reaction will be like for the inaugural race at Sochi?
I expect it will be just like the support that Mark Webber gets here, or the support that Lewis Hamilton gets in the UK, or the support the German drivers get at Hockenheim.
It will be the same for me. I will be very, very happy to have this Grand Prix and to represent my country.
We offer our sincerest thanks to Caterham’s press team for making this interview possible. To visit Caterham’s website, please click on the banner below: