Petrov’s future tied to pace, cash or Kimi?

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With the announcement of Renault’s signing of Robert Kubica until 2012, the rumors started flying about who might be his teammate for the foreseeable future. Current driver Vitaly Petrov has been doing a fine job, as rookies go, but many suggest that a return to the sport by Kimi Raikkonen might be a better option for the team.

Renault’s team boss Eric Boullier, in this weeks Renault podcast, says that Petrov’s future is in his own hands. One would presume that could mean his ability on track or his ability off-track in securing more funding for his drive in 2011.

“His future is in his hands,” Boullier said. “We have not been disappointed by him – he clearly is the best rookie in the paddock.

“He did some very amazing jobs sometimes [but] he’s clearly today lacking some consistency to get the points he deserves. We definitely need to have both cars scoring points, so that’s obviously creating some rumours surrounding his race seat.

“But we are totally committed to him. We are happy to have him on board and we will do everyhting we can to help him take the final step to where we want him to be.”

There is no mystery that Petrov is a pay-to-drive pilot for Renault and some have considered the fact of a future in F1 as tied directly to his ability to bring more investment cash to the dance in order to keep driving. With a large outlay of cash to retain Kubica, an infusion of cash from the Russian driver Petrov would be a welcome sight to offset the expense of the Polish driver.

Ultimately the question is, how much cash does Renault have to retain two top drivers such as Kubica and Raikkonen? Neither can be inexpensive and it is no guarantee that the pairing will work–just ask Ferrari in 2009.

For my money, Petrov has done a good job. The best of the rookies, he is helping Renault close the gap to Mercedes GP. Boullier seems to imply that beating Mercedes GP will be a good litmus test for retaining Petrov as it will require his help to make that happen.

That’s not too lofty of goal considering that Renault is only 34 points behind Mercedes GP in the constructors title race but with Kubica scoring all but 6 of those points, you can see where Petrov’s consistency is being questioned. IS it a lot to ask of a rookie? Yes, it probably is as Williams F1’s Hulkenberg or Sauber’s Kobayashi are both struggling to remain within the same performance postal code of the Russian pilot.

Unfortunately you are measured against your teammate and Petrov has a mighty hill to climb in order to best Kubica. If it were measuring the young Russian against his peers, he would have already secured a slot for next year but that’s not how F1 works.

If the consistency isn’t there, perhaps a large cash infusion could give Petrov another year to prove himself but that’s assuming the Russian cash machine is still present and willing to back the youngster.

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