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Renault happy with Petrov's progress
The Renault F1 team's majority shareholder Gerard Lopez is pleased with the job rookie Vitaly Petrov is doing at the team, after he secured his first points finish in China.
Petrov is believed to be bringing €15 million (US$20.5 million) to Renault to pay for his F1 drive, and after three retirements in the first three races, he scored six points at the wet Chinese Grand Prix. He has been off the pace of his highly-rated team-mate Robert Kubica in qualifying, but Lopez said he had lived up to expectations so far.
"I'm pleased with Vitaly, and how he recovered from a rookie mistake, when he spun out [in Shanghai]," he told SpeedTV. "Rain is a great leveller, and rain tells you a lot about drivers, because it levels the playing field much more. So the job he did was amazing in rain conditions."
"In qualifying Robert is pretty much where we are supposed to be right now, between sixth and eighth probably, with Vitaly scratching around for 10th, which is great for a rookie obviously. In the races we're better. The car is where we expected in the races, and we're working very hard to get it up to speed in qualifying."
Lopez added that he sees title-winning potential in Kubica.
"I knew Robert from BMW, even before he was an F1 driver there," he said. "I'm a very strong believer that on pure speed and character he's one of the few that deserves a world championship at some time."
He was also optimistic the car would be quick at the next race in Spain and said Renault would continue to push forward its development programme, which has seen it become a clear contender to the top four in the opening races.
"After we took over the team, we worked extremely hard on development," Lopez added. "We're bringing out a package pretty much every race, so it's a very aggressive development schedule. Obviously if you remember at the last test in Barcelona [in February], we were not brilliant, but we had a major upgrade and the car was different for Bahrain. So the car is obviously good. For Barcelona we've new bits on the car, but obviously it's a big grand prix for all the other teams, so there are going to be major updates. Hopefully, we'll catch up, but we'll see. It's going to tell us where we stand and then we'll take it from there."