Vitaly Petrov, 26
Thinking about Russia usually brings images of big fur hats, bitter cold winters and plenty of vodka. But Vitaly Petrov is slowly changing that perception to include F1 drivers.
While Vitaly didn’t get his start in karting, like most of the other Formula One drivers, he did compete extensively in several Russian motorsports, including the Lada Cup and Russian Formula 1600 series. He also dabbled in Formula Renault and Euronova Racing. It was after heading over to Euroseries 3000 and the GP2 series that he finally made the jump to Formula One.
This is your first year in Formula One, and you’re also the first Russian to compete in F1. What’s it been like so far?
Being the first Russian F1 driver has increased the following of the sport in Russia – there literally has been an explosion in Russia, a lot more people are following F1 now, which is great. The season so far has been good, it has also been a steep learning curve for me. I have scored points four times now but I know that I still have to improve. I will do the maximum I can in the last five races of the season.
You stand at 1.85m tall, do you feel being such a tall driver gets in the way of driving competitively, or does it help because you can see better?
I think that being tall helps in a way as I can certainly see well from the cockpit but ultimately, I don’t think that it is a negative or a positive. The team adjusts my driving position so that I am comfortable in the car, and according to our aerodynamic requirements.
How do you hope to do at the Singapore Grand Prix?
It is a new circuit for me, I have never competed there before so I have worked hard to prepare as much as I can. My objective is to fight in the top 10 and to get into Q3 in qualifying. Our target remains to try and beat Mercedes. It will be a challenge as everything will be new for me but it will be a challenging weekend for everybody.
Off the track, how do you prepare for a race?
I do physical training between races. I now live in England and visit the Renault F1 Team factory often to meet with my engineers to prepare for the next race. I watch videos of previous races and read all available data.
What do you enjoy doing off the track?
As an F1 driver, I have often commitments like sponsor events. However, when I do get a chance to relax, I like practicing watersports in the summer, for example jet-ski. I also like playing football quite regularly.
Tell us something about yourself that people might not know.
I collect playing cards from places that I have visited.
What would you be doing, if you hadn’t become a race driver?
Most of all I like racing so who knows, maybe I would have become a rally driver.