Berthold Bouman, F1 correspondent
Caterham today announced Vitaly Petrov will replace Jarno Trulli for the 2012 season. There had already been rumors the Italian’s race seat would not be safe for this season, apart from Petrov also the name of Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, who is currently test and reserve driver for the Anglo-Malaysian team, had also been circulating as a possible candidate to replace Trulli.
Today the Russian visited the team’s headquarters in Hingham, UK, for a seat fitting session and it is expected he will be behind the wheel of the 2012 Caterham during next week’s second pre-season test session in Barcelona, Spain.
Petrov today commented, “This is a very exciting day for me. I would like to thank Tony [Fernandes], Kamarudin Meranun and SM Nasarudin for giving me the chance to join a team that made its Formula One debut at the same time as me, and has grown from one of the new teams to a serious force for future honors.”
Petrov already feels at home at Caterham, “The passion and spirit that Tony and the whole team have to keep moving forwards is infectious, and I am honoured to be able to join them and play my part in helping the team mount a serious challenge to the teams ahead in 2012 and for many seasons to come.”
Team owner and Team Principal Tony Fernandes welcomed Petrov to his team, “We are all delighted to welcome Vitaly into our team and are very excited about the role he will play in helping us take the next steps forward in 2012 and for many years to come.”
Fernandes thinks Petrov is the right choice for 2012, “When we first met it was immediately clear that Vitaly understands and shares our vision for how we want our team to grow. As the first Russian to race in Formula One he carries the hopes of a huge nation with ease and his talents, experience with one of our current competitors and insights on and off track will play a huge role in our development as we fight to join the established teams ahead.”
Vitaly understands and shares our vision for how we want our team to grow
Not good news for Italian Trulli, who will now be sidelined for the 2012 season. The 37-year old veteran of 256 Grands Prix was disappointed but thanked his team, “I want to take this chance to thank Tony, Kamarudin, SM Nasarudin, Riad, Mike and everyone in the team for the two seasons we had together.” And he added, “From zero we built up and established a solid Formula One team. I'm really proud to have been part of it. I understand the decision the team has made and I want to wish to the whole team the very best of luck for the season ahead.”
Fernandes also thanked Trulli, “"I also want to take this opportunity to thank Jarno for the absolutely pivotal role he played in the formation and progression of our team since he joined us in December 2009. Jarno knew that when he joined us it would be a very different environment to where he had been before, and when we gave him the package he wanted he absolutely shone.”
It was nevertheless not an easy decision Fernandes admitted, “It was not an easy decision to bring Vitaly in to replace Jarno, but it was one we made to ensure that we give fresh impetus across the whole team and with a realistic eye on the global economic market.”
But the Malaysian reckoned it was time for some fresh blood, “Jarno has an incredible natural talent behind the wheel, and his winning record and longevity in the sport will bear testament to that talent in the Formula One annals forever, but now it is time to open a new chapter in our team's story, and Vitaly is the right person to help us do that.”
Petrov had never lost his faith and was certain he would find a race seat for the 2012 season, “I have been training hard all winter and am ready to get back into the cockpit and go to work. From what I have seen already, our new car is another good step forward from 2011 and now I cannot wait to see how it feels when we get to Barcelona. I would also like to take this chance to thank all my fans and partners for their support and their patience.”