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Petrov deal not done yet, says Lopez

Fraser Masefield
November 26, 2010 « Ecclestone falls victim to mugging | »
Gerard Lopez wants answers from Vitaly Petrov © Sutton Images

Renault demands the kind of pace shown by Vitaly Petrov in Abu Dhabi on a more consistent basis if they are to sign him up for the 2011 season.

That is the view of Genii Capital chairman and RenaultF1majority shareholder Gerard Lopez, who said the decision to keep Petrov on for next season has not yet been made.

"It's not done yet. As much as we have been happy during the course of the season, we were a little bit disappointed with the results coming towards the end of the season," Lopez told ESPNF1. "The one criticism we had of him and still have, to some extent, is not his pure speed but his ability to put together a whole weekend in a very focused and concentrated way. If anything in Abu Dhabi, he showed that if he wants to, he can. There is no reason why Vitaly can't be a top five or six driver throughout his career but we haven't made a final decision. Abu Dhabi did a lot for us to re-consider his position and we'd like to be able to sign him up but he's been away so we have to sit down with him, look him in the eye and see if he can do what he did in Abu Dhabi during the race throughout the season during practice, qualifying and the race."

Much has been made of the sponsorship money that Petrov brings to the team but Lopez insists that financial considerations have no bearing on the decision, which will be made purely on the basis of racing credentials.

"The decision will be made probably in the first two weeks of December. Eric Boullier will voice the recommendation from the team and it's certainly not a financial issue because there are a lot of drivers out there willing to pay a lot of money for a drive and a much higher amount than whatever sponsor Vitaly can or can't bring. Vitaly is of interest because he is from Russia and we do have business interests in Russia. So yes, we like the idea of helping to promote a Russian champion but our decision is really going to be based on racing credentials. At the end of the day, we're going to do what we did last year and make a decision based on a pool of experienced drivers and a pool of younger drivers and essentially pitch Vitaly against those drivers.

"Honestly speaking, from a pure driving perspective, he fares really well. I know a lot of drivers and some are very good friends, but I don't know of any rookie drivers or even seasoned drivers who could hold up Alonso for 40 laps when he's fighting for the world championship and to do so not by aggressively closing the door but just by being consistent and driving fast. I believe he has been the strongest rookie and unlike other rookies, he never tested a Formula One car. Someone like Nico Hulkenberg, who is a great driver, had something like 8000kms or 9000kms of tests and Lewis Hamilton something like 22,000kms of tests before he arrived in F1 and they all had classical karting, Formula Ford or Formula BMW backgrounds.

"It's just down to experience. If the racing team came back and said there are issues we can't solve, we wouldn't have Vitaly in the car. It's looking good but it's not going to be finalised until we sit down and get answers to the things we didn't like. If we're pleased with the answers, he'll be in the car next year."