Formula 1 – Renault signs Russian Vitaly Petrov

Formula One team Renault have signed Vitaly Petrov as their second driver for the 2010 season. Petrov, seen here perched uncomfortably on his new car’s rear tyre, will become the first ever Russian to race in F1 once the season’s first race begins this March, in Bahrain, and he’ll be hoping to play more than just a supporting role to Polish team-mate Robert Kubica (pictured, left).

Petrov is a well known and very successful racer – he finished second in last season’s F2 championship. He is, according to his Wikipedia page, known as the Vyborg Rocket in Russia – presumably because he’s from Vyborg and, erm, goes really really fast. Or, possibly, just because someone in the media was searching for a nickname, and was feeling uninspired that day.

Renault’s decision to sign Petrov will have been based mostly on his performance to date in lower formulas, but it won’t have hurt his chances that he also brings what is rumoured to be between $10 million and $15 million in personal sponsorship with him from top Russian bank Sberbank and natural gas company Gazprom. Petrov beat out two other Russian drivers to become the first Russian in Formula 1 – Sergey Zlobin and Roman Rusinov are reserve drivers for the Minardi and Midland teams, but presumably didn’t make the cut because they didn’t bring quite such impressive sponsorship packages to the table grid.

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