While one of the Renault seats was always going to be up for grabs, it came as quite a shocker that shortly after Kimi’s signing Vitaly got booted out unceremoniously in favor of Romain Grosjean, Boullier’s ‘chouchou’ as they say in La douce France. Would this have happened had Petrov kept his peace instead of going batshit after the Abu Dhabi race? We will never really know, but it’s a clear indication that apparently Vitaly is not pulling in the Russian sponsors at the rate they hoped he would. That combined with an unimpressive second season in F1 the Russian now suddenly finds hiss F1 career in great jeopardy.
So what next for Vitaly? Back to Lada ice racing? Snow scooters? Run an illegal Vodka distillery? Become Putin’s shoe shiner? No, his best bets now seem to be with the backmarkers HRT and Virgin. Virgin, being renamed Marussia makes some sense with whole the Russian thing, but then again the team have already confirmed both Charles Pic and Timo Glock. With the inexperienced Pic unlikely to be dumped a month after getting signed, it seems Glock’s seat may be a bit under pressure but it would be foolish to dump Glock who’s done incredibly well in a dog of a car these past two seasons.
Unless Glock lands a drive somewhere higher up the grid – and the only place that’s still all open seems to be Williams which isn’t very far up the grid sadly enough- I do not see Petrov getting a ride for Marussia this year. With De La Rosa signed HRT will be looking for a paying 2nd driver, and Petrov might just perfectly fit the bill there.
Don’t forget, the Russian lived in Valencia for years– the teams’ new home base – until Renault forced him to move to the UK this year and his money combined with 2 years of F1 experience should be quite attractive to the team, much better than some other untalented pay driver with no experience coming in. For Petrov it would be a great move to keep his career alive in anticipation of a possible move to Marussia in 2013. Therefore, perhaps seemingly illogically, the chances are higher for the Russian to end up a the Spanish team rather than at Marussia this year.
While Grosjean’s chances seemed relatively slim, with Boullier appearing to be under fire within the team, and faced against the might of Senna’s Brazilian and Vitaly’s Russian connections, the Swiss/Frenchman found some major backing with oil giant Total announcing they extended their contract with the team for one year the same day Grosjean was presented to the press. This is of course a boost to Boullier as well, seeing he landed ‘his’ driver the second seat. Now what would make me even happier is if he manages to land D’Ambrosio at least a reserve driver seat with Lotus, seeing he is still in his management stable and that the Belgian deserves another crack at F1.
Grosjean is of course more Swiss than French being born, raised, and still living in Switzerland but that’s a whole other matter. If we are brutally honest, we should be happy the most deserving guy got the seat in the end. Grosjean is this year’s very dominant GP2 champ and he was quite impressive in his 2 FP1 outings in the final races. Vitaly and Senna are little more than just another pay driver sadly enough, as we always talk about sponsor money when mentioning them, never just about their talent.