Vitaly Petrov will race for Renault in 2010 and becomes Russia’s first ever F1 driver.
The 25 year-old, who has spent the last three-and-a-half seasons racing in GP2, was announced as the team mate for Robert Kubica by Renault at the launch of their R30 today.
The team also confirmed Jerome D’Ambrosio and Ho-Pin Tung will be its test drivers. The pair are both run by the Gravity management company owned by Gerard Lopez, who bought control of the Renault team over the winter.
Russia’s first F1 driver
Russia is not known for having a thriving national racing scene and Petrov won several races in low-level competitions – including the 2002 Lada Cup.
He pursued his racing career by competing in Formula Renault championships in Europe before moving up to the Euroseries 3000 in 2006. He placed third overall, with one win.
That year he also moved up to GP2, spending the second half of the season with DPR. He joined Campos the following year and remained with them for three seasons, which is unusual for a driver in F1′s feeder series.
Experience has served him well and he achieved better results with each passing season – 13th overall in 2007, seventh in 2008 and second last year.
It’s quite appropriate that Petrov’s F1 drive should be announced at Valencia because both its racing tracks have been kind to him in recent years. He scored his first GP2 win at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in 2007, and won on the street track in 2008 and 2009.
If he’s failed to capture the imagination of those looking for a future F1 star it’s perhaps because he’s not rocketed through the championship the way Lewis Hamilton and last year’s champion Nico Hülkenberg did – though they both benefitted from being born in countries with a much stronger racing heritage than Russia has.
Petrov will be the first Russian to race in F1. However the country has already had an F1 team, in the form of Midland Group, which took over Jordan in 2005 and ran it as Midland F1 in 2006 before selling it to Dutch car manufacturer Spyker.
Vitaly Petrov in GP2 – pictures
Read more: 2010 F1 drivers and teams
Images (C) GP2 Seriez/Alastair Staley, Glenn Dunbar, Charles Coates and Andrew Ferraro.