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Page last updated at 11:36 GMT, Sunday, 27 March 2011 12:36 UK

Vitaly Petrov boosted by Renault podium at Aussie GP

Sebastian Vettel

Highlights - Australian Grand Prix

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Melbourne

Vitaly Petrov believes he is capable of leading Renault in the absence of the injured Robert Kubica after finishing third at the Australian Grand Prix.

Petrov managed to claim his first podium while Kubica's stand-in Nick Heidfeld was 12th in a damaged car.

When asked if he could lead the team, Petrov said: "I don't need to answer anything. You can see. And also yes!"

Renault team boss Eric Boullier revealed Kubica sent congratulations to Petrov after the race.

Petrov started sixth on the grid but powered off the line and eventually moved up to third place.


The Russian earned his stripes in F1 when he held off Fernando Alonso's Ferrari at the final race of 2010 in Abu Dhabi when the Spaniard desperately needed to move past to stay in contention for the title.

Alonso was also closing in on Petrov in the closing stages of the race in Melbourne but ran out of time to catch the Renault.

"[At the start] I was catching Mark Webber," explained Petrov. "Then he pitted and I had to push as much as I could.

"In the middle of the race my radio wasn't working very well so I just tried to push as hard as I can and everything was good.

"I had to pull away from Fernando but it was not so much pressure. He was still quite far away from me and I could pull away at the last corner."

Petrov's place at Renault was in doubt after a stuttering debut season where he often failed to reach his potential during races.

But in December the 26-year-old was awarded a new two-year deal and has responded by delivering at the first race.

"I'm very proud," said Petrov, who is the first Russian to race in Formula 1. "The result is for all of us and I'm totally ecstatic."

Vitaly Petrov

Renault planning for success - Petrov

Boullier, who has a background in driver development, said Petrov had been working hard to stay focused during races.

"We work all the winter for him to learn and understand how to avoid this lack of concentration," said Boullier.

"His relationship with the team is much better. He now understands he needs to compose his driving so he has taken a major step.

"He was nowhere a year ago, not zero, but F1 is a challenge. He is now a guy who clearly has his place in F1.

"Vitaly did a great job and it was good for the team because they had a very good winter.

"He made some good progress but knowing the pace of Robert, whether he could have been better or worse, I don't want to think of it."

Kubica is continuing his recovery from multiple injuries in an Italian hospital but Boullier said in Melbourne that the team hoped to know by the end of the season if the talented Pole would be able to return to F1.

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