Vitaly Petrov: A Great Opportunity In Unfortunate Circumstances

Adam Flinn@@F1AdamCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 2011

First of all, along with everyone else I want to wish Robert Kubica the best of luck with his recovery after his horrifying rally crash on Sunday.

However, the business of Formula 1 continues, and there is plenty of speculation as to who is going to replace him while he is out.

Lotus have narrowed it down to three drivers. In terms of experience and consistency, it would seem that Nick Heidfeld is the obvious choice, although Vitantonio Liuzzi and Bruno Senna are also in the frame.

But how does Kubica's accident affect his team-mate?

Petrov didn't have a great time of it in 2010. Over the season he was completely outclassed by Kubica, and often found himself a long way behind the Pole in qualifying and the race.

At the beginning of 2010, it was reported that Petrov would have to score points equivalent to 40 percent of Kubica's final total to keep his seat for 2011. With Robert earning 136 to Vitaly's 27, it works out at just under 20 percent.

Despite that, he kept his job, but he will need to give a much better performance this year. With Kubica sidelined for at least the first couple of months, it gives Petrov the opportunity to become team leader.

If he can drive the wheels off of his Lotus without the pressure of being compared to Kubica, it would certainly be a big help to keep his job in 2012.

Petrov has shown he is a competent racer. His drives in Turkey and Hungary have proved that, along with keeping a title-chasing Fernando Alonso behind him at Abu Dhabi.

He even got the fastest lap at Istanbul.

Yet there were numerous occasions when he was barely noticeable. Even when you acknowledge that it was his rookie season, too often he was too far behind his team-mate.

He has to make the most of this chance. Vitaly will need to make a good impression if he wants to keep his career going, otherwise he will end up in the wilderness of testing like Hulkenberg this year.

In my opinion, Petrov certainly has the talent to at least match Heidfeld, Liuzzi and Senna, so it is up to him to prove he can consistently score points in 2011.

It may be in horrible circumstances, but this could be Petrov's chance to shine.

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