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Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Sunday, 31 January 2010

Russian Vitaly Petrov signed by Renault for 2010 season

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Renault launch 2010 car in Valencia

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Valencia

Renault unveiled Russian Vitaly Petrov as their second driver for 2010 at Sunday's car launch in Valencia.

The 25-year-old will become Russia's first F1 driver when he makes his debut in Bahrain on 14 March alongside former BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica.

Petrov will drive an F1 car for the first time when the opening winter test gets under way at the Ricardo Torno circuit near Valencia on Monday.

"I'm very happy," said Petrov. "This is brilliant. I've waited a long time."

The 25-year-old driver said he had signed his contract with Renault on Sunday morning in Valencia, where he is based.

Petrov, who is believed to be bringing $15m (£9m) in sponsorship money, confirmed he had been close to joining new team Campos Meta F1 before deciding on the French team.

"We spoke with a lot of teams but in the end Renault gave us the best solution," said Petrov, who signed a one-year deal with an option of a further two years.

"I only started driving eight or nine years ago - 10 years ago I didn't know who (seven-time world champion) Michael Schumacher was.

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"Now, I need to learn how to drive an F1 car. I've learned some tricks already."

Petrov finished as runner-up behind new Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg in the 2009 GP2 Series, which is seen as F1's feeder category, but he will be relying heavily on the experience of his new team-mate Kubica.

The Pole, who made his debut with BMW Sauber in 2006, is regarded as one of F1's brightest talents and was signed by Renault as a replacement for their double world champion Fernando Alonso, who is now at Ferrari.

But Kubica had little opportunity to showcase his raw pace last season as his team struggled to deliver a competitive car under the rule changes, before BMW announced their withdrawal from F1 in the summer.

After signing a three-year contract with Renault, the 25-year-old is cautiously optimistic about his chances of adding to his one grand prix victory with his new team.

"Who says we will not fight at the top?" commented Kubica. "It's difficult to say how competitive we will be - everything has to be discovered.

"I hope they'll give me quick prospects to fight at the top but it may take time. You can never be 100% sure that you can target what you are achieving.

"We are starting from a worse position than the top teams were last year but I like the way the team works and their approach to racing. We will have more of an idea at the end of February."

Renault secured their future in F1 after the Luxembourg-based Genii Capital group bought a 75% stake in the team at the end of last year.

Vitaly Petrov (left) and Robert Kubica (right) unveil Renault's new R30 car at the launch in Valencia
Vitaly Petrov (left) and Robert Kubica (right) unveil Renault's new R30 car

The French team had considered pulling out of the sport after enduring their worst season since it returned to the sport as a constructor in 2002.

They finished eighth out of the 10 teams in the world championship and Fernando Alonso's third place at the Singapore Grand Prix was their only podium of the season.

Renault hit new lows off the track as they were found guilty of fixing the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, won by Alonso, when Nelson Piquet Jr revealed he had been deliberately told to crash to help his then team-mate.

Renault were handed a two-year suspended ban from F1 while team boss Flavio Briatore and former engineering director Pat Symonds were banned from motor sport.

Briatore and Symonds had their suspensions overturned in the French courts but that decision is now the subject of an appeal by governing body the FIA.

Frenchman Eric Boullier was named as Briatore's successor in January and the F1 rookie is under no illusions about the task ahead of him as he aims to lead Renault into a new era.

"The task is huge," said Boullier, formerly the managing director of French team DAMS, a leading force in the GP2 feeder category.

"It's a lot to learn and understand in such a short time but my objective is to be ready by Bahrain.

"Everyone at Renault was concerned about the last three years without results but now I see the puzzle coming together.

"We are here to win - and we are on track."

Renault also broke new ground by unveiling Ho-Ping Tung as the first Chinese driver to be named in an F1 line-up.

"This step will be the breakthrough in terms of media attention," said the Dutch-born 27-year-old, who will be the team's official third driver this season.

"China has had a race since 2004 but never had a Chinese involvement within a team. Now they have and I'm really looking forward to it."



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see also
Reluctant Sauber launches new car
31 Jan 10 |  Formula 1
Kubica to stay with Renault team
04 Jan 10 |  Formula 1
Boullier named Briatore successor
05 Jan 10 |  Formula 1
Renault sell team but stay in F1
16 Dec 09 |  Formula 1
Red Bull hope over Renault engine
16 Dec 09 |  Formula 1
Reeling Renault to continue in F1
24 Sep 09 |  Formula 1


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