Vitaly Petrov is the re-branded Lotus Renault team's first choice to partner Robert Kubica next season, but he must convince the team that he has the focus to perform consistently in 2011, according to team co-owner Gerard Lopez.
The 26-year-old Russian is set to re-sign for a second season with the team after scoring 27 points during his rookie year. But Lopez believes that he must still demonstrate that he has what it takes to deliver results every weekend.
"Our preferred choice at this stage is to continue with Vitaly, but he has to sit down with us," Lopez told AUTOSPORT. "Vitaly was having an operation last week, so he didn't have time to sit down with [team principal] Eric Boullier and the engineers.
"The situation is that we will make the decision based on that discussion with Vitaly and his understanding of what it means if he stays at the team. Our expectation is that he can do what he did in Hungary or Abu Dhabi more consistently. We know that he's got the speed, but we also know that he sometimes lacks the focus to deliver on a full weekend. If we stay with Vitaly, he has to be able to do that more consistently."
The deal with Lotus Cars to re-brand the team will not change Petrov's situation, and the desire to further exploit business opportunities in Russia will not hurt his chances. Boullier believes that Petrov is a strong candidate, but that others remain in contention.
"The process will remain the same," said Boullier of the driver decision. "We are clearly considering different options, but Vitaly is one of the strong ones and could remain. "I would definitely like to fix everything before Christmas."