Renault team boss Eric Boullier has praised Vitaly Petrov's drive in the Chinese Grand Prix, where the Russian rookie scored his first points in F1.
Petrov finished in seventh position after a strong charge in the latter part of the race, when the Russian was one of the quickest men on track. Boullier believes the race allowed Petrov to finally show his talent after a difficult couple of races.
"Vitaly put in a great drive," said Boullier. "At the beginning of the race, the conditions were very tricky. Some parts of the track were wet, some weren't, and it's never easy for a rookie when the conditions are changing all the time.
"But once everybody got onto the same tires in the second half of the race, he just got faster and faster – in the final laps, he was the quickest car on track."
He added: "We know that he has some very strong qualities: his speed and his calmness under pressure. You always have to give young drivers time. Kobayashi and Hulkenberg, the other rookies in established teams, have struggled to finish races and score points this year, and they both have more experience in an F1 car.
"Yesterday, Vitaly was finally able to show his true talent. It demonstrated that once he has confidence in the car, he can be very quick indeed."
Boullier, whose team has scored 46 points so far this year, believes Renault's aggressive development plan is starting to pay off after its first double point-scoring finish of the year.
"Everybody is working incredibly hard at Enstone, at Viry and at the track," said Boullier. "The race team deserve a special mention this weekend: they worked long hours all through the weekend, and did a fantastic job to prepare Vitaly's car for qualifying after his accident in third practice. Our first two-car points finish was a great reward for their efforts. In terms of development, we're clawing back a tenth here and a tenth there at each race.
"It takes a little while for the progress to be visible out on track, but looking at the situation race by race, we're getting steadily closer to pole position. After all, Robert was able to split the Mercedes for the first time in qualifying in China, which was very encouraging for the whole team. Everybody is pushing themselves to the limit and the hard work is beginning to pay off."