Vitaly Petrov says the security of his new two-year deal leaves him feeling "free" going into his second Formula 1 season with Renault.
The team waited until the end of 2010 before re-signing Petrov, having been concerned that he could not consistently deliver his best form. During the year, Renault bosses had openly stated that Petrov had to become a regular top-10 contender to hang on to his seat.
Petrov admitted that the pressure of fighting to save his drive while having to learn about F1 had weighed heavily on him, and that starting 2011 knowing he was confirmed at the team until the end of 2012 made a big difference.
"Last year it was a little bit tense, but now I'm free and I can breathe," he said.
The Russian added that he was confident of being much more competitive with his learning period out of the way.
"Of course it's easier," said Petrov. "I don't need to learn like last year, just adapt to some new things like KERS and the rear wing."
He said his season-best fifth place at the Hungaroring – a track he knew relatively well – showed what he could do when less hampered by inexperience.
"All the weekend I was perfect," Petrov said. "I know this track very well and all the secrets of this track. I knew how to make the car work well and that was why I was quite competitive."