Vitaly Petrov has apologized to the Lotus Renault GP team for a controversial Russian TV interview in which he criticized the squad's performance during the 2011 season.
"Unfortunately, I cannot say anything bad about the team, it says so in my contract," Petrov told his Russian interviewer, "but many things have already been written about in the media. People say the team criticized the drivers. But excuse me; read my interviews, I haven't criticized the team despite what we have lost so many times. How much have we missed at pit stops? With strategy?
"We have lost positions in about 10 races or even more. Even without a fast car we could have gained good points, we could have finished with points if we had had a good strategy. But I couldn't say in interviews that we lost it with the pit stops, and I cannot talk about that now, either. But I can't keep silent anymore."
Petrov said he believes the team started the season in a very good position, but says development was never able to match that of rivals, which is why the squad slipped back.
"At the beginning of the year, for the first five or six races, we looked really strong. We could not fight with Ferrari, Red Bull or McLaren, but we were quite close to Ferrari and much faster than Mercedes," he said. "It was very easy for us to pass from Q2 to Q3 using one set of tires. We didn't even use all the potential or push 100 percent to get into Q3 – in the first six races it was rather easy.
"But when the wind tunnel developments came, the new parts, because of the front exhausts, they didn't work. We worked on the front wing, the rear wing, the diffusers, the floor – but whatever we changed, it was useless. For about 10 races we didn't have anything, so, in fact, we have had the same car with which we started the season."
Although he has a deal in place for next year, Petrov said is aware that if the team does not want him to stay then there is nothing he can do to force it to keep him.
"Everything is clear: I have a contract," he said. "But as I have already said before, even World Champion Kimi Raikkonen was asked to leave F1 for a certain sum of money. It's hard to do anything in this world if someone wants you to be removed."
Petrov's manager moved to smooth the troubled waters after the interview became public in the western press.
"It was an emotional interview," Petrov's manager, Oksana Kossatchenko, told Reuters. "It was an exception and he apologized afterward to the team. It will never happen again. We are really sorry and the management has discussed it with Vitaly already."