VitalyPetrov is a Russian racing driver who paved a way for other Russian drivers in the Formula 1 World Championship as he was the first one who has competed in the most prominent racing series. He recorded 57 starts in Formula 1 between 2010 and 2012, driving for Renault, Lotus and Caterham.
In a post-F1 career, Petrov spent one season in the DTM and he currently competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship with SMP Racing, most recently finishing third at 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2019.
Unusual beginning of the career
Vitaly Alexandrovich Petrov, which is his full name, was born in Vyborg, a town near the border with Finland, so one of his nicknames during a career was the Vyborg Rocket.
Racing has never been a popular sport in the Soviet Union and later in Russia, which is why Vitaly started his career relatively late, at the age of 14. Unlike many of his colleagues, Petrov didn't make his first racing steps in karting. In the beginning, his first choice was ice racing and then rally sprints.
Start of Vitaly's career was a pretty unusual
Unsuccessful attempt at the international stage and return to Russia
While he was still in his teens, he moved to the Russian Lada Cup and dominated the series in the first two years. Interestingly, in 2002, Petrov scored a maximum of 500 points, winning all the races. In 2003, Petrov competed in the various Formula Renault Series but still after two years he wasn't able to achieve notable results. He returned home in 2005 and won trophies in both Formula Russia 1600 and Lada Revolution Championship.
Vitaliy Petrov dominated Russian racing scene in 2005
Petrov rise was through the GP2 Series
More experienced and with a confidence, Petrov bounced back at the international stage after only one year. Driving for Euronova Racing he finished 3rd in Euroseries 3000 scoring four wins and a total of nine podiums. This Russian also debuted in GP2 Series, driving in eight races for David Price Racing but ended the season without a point.
However, that was a good preparation for the following year in GP2. While driving for Campos Racing, Petrov scored his maiden victory in Valencia. At the end of the year, Vitaly was 13th but over the winter break he finished 3rd in the GP2 Asia Series. In 2008, his progress has continued. Petrov again won the feature race in Valencia and moved up to the 7th place in the final classification.
GP2 Series runner-up in 2009
Finally, in 2009, his last season in GP2 Series, Vitaly finished as a vice-champion. He won the races in Istanbul and Valencia, had other five podium finishes and amassed a total of 75 points, losing the championship battle to Nico Hulkenberg by 25 points, but still finishing in front of some well-known names - Romain Grosjean, Lucas di Grassi, Pastor Maldonado, and Sergio Perez are just some of them.
Vitaly Petrov, GP2 Series runner-up in 2009 during the race in Istanbul
Formula 1 debut with Renault in 2010
The big moment arrived in 2010 when Renault Formula 1 team decided to pick Petrov instead of Grosjean. Russian was paired with Robert Kubica and in his rookie season, he managed to earn points in five races, with 5th place at Hungarian Grand Prix as the highlight of the season. He scored a total of 27 points which was enough for the 13th place in the Drivers’ championship.
Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka 2010
Only podium finish Vitaly scored in 2011 Australian Grand Prix
The start of 2011 was promising after Petrov finished 3rd, behind Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, in the season-opening Grand Prix in Australia, which was the best result in his F1 career. However, the rest of the year wasn’t so good. Still, Petrov scored some points in seven races and finished 10th in the championship. During the year Petrov publicly criticized team's inability to enhance the car, which is why his team decided to expel him.
Vitaly Petrov celebrates his only F1 podium finish
Last season in F1
In February 2012, Petrov signed with Caterham F1 Team, to drive alongside Heikki Kovalainen. In his last year in Formula 1, he pulled out the best he could from a slow CT01 and he finished the season empty handed. His best result was 11th place in the last race of the season in Brazil which was probably good for Caterham who finished 10th in the Constructors’ Championship and got more prize money, but Vitaly wasn’t happy at all.
Vitaly Petrov,Caterham, Barcelona, 2012
Unsuccessful try in DTM
In 2013 Petrov was lost his motivation after he and Kovalainen were replaced with Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic. His further career was in limbo but in 2014 Petrov signed with Mercedes to drive in DTM for Mucke Motorsport.
He left the series at the end of the campaign, failing to win a single point. Unfortunately, 11th place at Zandvoort was his best result.
Year spent in DTM was one to forget
LMP2 class podium at 2016 Le Mans 24 hours
Again it looked like Vitaly will end his career because he missed another year, but in 2016 he again jumped back into the driving seat, this time at the FIA World Endurance Championship. Petrov already had some experience in endurance racing as he drove in several Le Mans Series races in 2007, including 24 Hours of Le Mans.
He became a driver of ambitious Russian team SMP Racing and he drove in LMP2 class alongside Kirill Ladygin and Viktor Shaitar. They did pretty well. They finished 3rd in the class and 7th overall at Le Mans 24 hours. That remained his best result in the 2016 FIA WEC season and he finished 9th in the final classification for LMP2 drivers.
Vitaly Petrov (in the middle) at Le Mans podium with Viktor Shaytar and Kirill Ladygin
Third place overall at 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours
For the 2017 FIA WEC season, Petrov joined CEFC Manor TRS Racing to compete with new Oreca 07-Gibson, sharing a car with Roberto Gonzalez and Simon Trummer, but the results were disappointing.
Petrov rejoined SMP Racing for the 2018/2019 FIA WEC super season, driving BR1 Engineering's LMP1 prototype. In the season-opening race at Le Mans, he didn't finish the race, sharing a car with Mikhail Aleshin and Jenson Button. A year later, Petrov reached the overall podium, finishing in the third place. His co-drivers were Mikhail Aleshin and Stoffel Vandoorne. Petrov/Aleshin scored four podiums over the season, finishing fourth in the championship.