Renault team owner Gerard Lopez today praised Vitaly Petrov on achieving his first podium in Formula 1 at the season opening Australian Grand Prix.
Petrov, 26, endured a difficult first season with the team last year scoring just 27 points and finishing 13th in the Drivers’ Championship.
Lopez described Petrov’s drive to third place, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, as “first class”.
“Vitaly did not make a single mistake all weekend long. His podium was not the result of unusual circumstances: he’s beaten the Ferraris and a Red Bull fair and square,” he said.
The Russian signed a two-year contract extension over the winter, a move which raised eyebrows in the F1 paddock.
Lopez said: “We’ve proved them wrong! As a country, Russia has been very strong in every sport. The only piece missing until now was a competitive racing driver. With Vitaly, Russia now has a fantastic ambassador and we are proud to have supported him.”
Petrov’s progress is a welcome boost to the Renault team who look to shake off the loss of Robert Kubica who was badly injured in a rallying accident during the off-season.