Renault boss Eric Boullier has praised the breakthrough performance of Vitaly Petrov in Turkey last weekend, even though the Russian failed to finish in the points.
Petrov delivered the best form of his rookie season, getting through to Q3 for the first time, and battling hard with Ferrari duo Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso for most of the Istanbul race. However, a late-race collision with Alonso resulted in a puncture that pitched Petrov off the track and force him into the pits for new tires.
But although Petrov had little to show for his weekend's efforts, Boullier said he was impressed with the job that his driver did.
"We have been very happy with him all through the weekend," Boullier told AUTOSPORT. "He made no mistakes and had a very strong race pace, so it is course a big disappointment when you are nearly at the end, ready to score points thanks to no other help, and something like that happens.
"But he definitely made a step forward this weekend. He knew the track very well and he loves this track – and I think it is, in terms of building stuff and building his self confidence, definitely a huge boost."
Although conceding that Petrov will face another big challenge in Canada, because it is a track he has never been to before, Boullier believes Petrov can now regularly fight for the points.
"He can be a little bit off the pace in Canada because he does not know the track, but more than this is a complete race weekend," he said. "He had good pace in practice, good pace in qualifying, having done this Q3 for once, and also keeping that pace during the race. During 54 laps he was coming close to Massa and kept Alonso on the back. It is a good experience for him. He did it and he can repeat it."