After four races for the Caterham team, Russian Formula One driver Vitaly Petrov is settling into life near the back of the grid. In a recent interview with RIA Novosti, he shared his thoughts on respect for fellow drivers, Caterham’s prospects and the hazards of the Mugello test track.
RIA Novosti: At the start of the season, you said your main aim was to beat your teammate Heikki Kovalainen. Is that still the case?
Petrov: At the moment, unfortunately, my main fight is with him in particular. Well, and obviously not letting the two last teams [Marussia and HRT] through. Currently we also have problems with aerodynamics, but new people have come into the team and if everything works out then we hope that, by the end of the season, we will be able to beat a couple of cars in a straight fight rather than as the result of circumstances beyond our control.
RIA Novosti: And how are you getting on with Kovalainen?
Petrov: He’s a great guy. It’s really easy to talk to him, he’s very open and there’s no problems with him whatsoever.
RIA Novosti: After the testing days at Mugello last week, you said the track was dangerous for modern F1 cars. What exactly is wrong with it?
Petrov: I actually really like this track, I won races there in Formula 3000 and I’d even say that this track is one of the best. But the corners at this track are built so there almost no first or second gear, all corners are high-speed, at turns three, four, five, six. And the walls are positioned very close, and if you lose control of the car, there’s a puncture or something else, then a very serious accident could happen. That’s then only reason I called that track dangerous.
RIA Novosti: At earlier Grands Prix you’ve had problems with KERS. Have you managed to solve that?
Petrov: The problem wasn’t with the whole KERS system. KERS has the ability to recharge under braking and there’s a greater sensitivity when it recharges. In connection with that the rear tires are locking up. For that reason, it’s very hard to drive the car. This problem hasn’t been solved yet, but we’re moving in the right direction.
RIA Novosti: Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg have criticized the Pirelli tires for being too influential. Do you support their views?
Petrov: I think that it all helps Formula One. If only they worked properly and there was less of a difference between the compounds. Personally, I like it, it leaves scope for competition. The minus, I’m afraid to say, is that they pick up too much dust and you can lose too much time because of that.
RIA Novosti: Fernando Alonso has said that F1 drivers have lost respect. Do you agree?
Petrov: Not entirely. Drivers take more risks nowadays, they attack more than they used to. I’ve been told that if you show undue respect on the track, then some time later others will lose respect for you because you’re always ready to concede.
RIA Novosti: Who do you think is the favorite for the title?
Petrov: It’s really hard to pick someone. Four races have happened already and each time there was a new winner. At the start, Red Bull looked bad, then recently won a race. McLaren Mercedes initially were the fastest in testing, but they haven’t get been able to get anything out of that. Lotus are very quick too. That’s why there isn’t one favorite like last year, when Sebastian Vettel became the champion.