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April 7th, 2011
Vitaly Petrov reckons he will have a difficult job to replicate his Melbourne podium in this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Russian was one of the revelations of the Australian weekend, qualifying sixth and taking his first top-three finish, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
However, the 26-year-old remains unsure of where his Renault team sits in the pecking order for Sepang, with the circuit’s long straights, searing temperatures and oppressive humidity providing a very different environment.
“We don’t know what to expect – this is a proper circuit and Melbourne is a street circuit,” he says.
“It is difficult to talk about the podium because we need to be realistic: Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari are quite quick. Maybe we’ll have good tactics during the race to try and fight with them.”
Petrov also warned that the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher could be in contention this weekend.
“We must not forget the potential of the Mercedes, they did a not great race (in Australia), but it’s difficult to say (where Renault will be).”
The Russian says that he ‘took risks’ in qualifying last time out in Melbourne and does not expect to be able to replicate that performance this weekend.
He is also critical of the regulations allowing drivers to use their moveable rear wing at any point on the circuit in qualifying, fearing that a repeat of Adrian Sutil’s spectacular spin in Melbourne qualifying may be on the cards.
“It’s more dangerous. Here you have turn 5 and turn 12, maybe you think ‘I can do qualifying with DRS open’, and you don’t know what to expect. I don’t understand why we do it with DRS open… I don’t see the point.”
He says that scoring his maiden podium has not changed his approach.
“When I don’t do the mistakes and feel more comfortable with the car and my engineers…it doesn’t matter about the position (in which I finish). They always listen to me quite a lot.”
However he did admit that the furore caused in his homeland by his success was such that his father had to take the phone off the hook, and national TV has been Petrov-obsessed all week.
Although he spoke of his pleasure in receiving a warm congratulation from team bosses, Petrov did mention that a similar message from Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin remains forthcoming.