No doubt that the Renault R31 has not been as reliable or fast as the team predicted and losing Robert Kubica a month before the first race of the season, didn´t help the teams chances either.
The Lotus Renault team announced Tuesday morning that they have signed 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen to race in one of their cars, from 2012 known purely as Lotus, and the other seat was meant to be Petrov´s. tat´s what we have heard, and what everyone expects too. In fact, even after Petrov´s outburst after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, that the performance of the car was not good enough and they had failed to develop the car since the start of the season, Eric Boullier, team principal of Lotus Renault, said that he had given Oksana Kosachenko, Petrov´s manager, ten days for her client to decide if he wants to keep his seat.
On paper it of course looks like the driver line-up at Lotus is set for 2012, which means Bruno Senna will most likely be retained as a test driver, Romain Grosjean is out of luck again and so are Robert Kubica. Throw in the rumours that Kubica might take one more year to recover and he will then sign with Ferrari to take over Felipe Massa´s seat, and you have yourself a right old mess.
Now it seems that even though Lotus Renault is handing out a seat to Petrov, he might go a different direction. He has been with the team for two full seasons, back in 2010 when it was Renault and now in 2011 as Lotus Renault, but my sources tells me that he are talkig to two other teams. And if we look at the official 2012 entry list, there are some good options.
Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes and Mercedes are all sorted out. So are Sauber, Caterham and Marussia. That leaves the vacant seat next to Raikkonen, but also no drivers have been announced at Sahara Force India yet, even though Vijay Mallya promised to announce his drivers before the final race in Brazil last weekend.
Toro Rosso has two seats available, though Jaime Alguersuari is believed to be a good contender for one of them. Williams will most likely retaing Pastor Maldonado because he brings in a lot of money and the way the prize money from Uncle Bernie is made up, the team is facing a huge loss this year. Maldonado´s contract have been thrown into doubt by a Venezuelan congressman, who believes the sponsorship is illegal, so that focuses everyone´s attention to Rubens Barrichello, who dearly wants a 20th season.
Over at HRT, Pedro de la Rosa has been signed for two years, a smart move, but he of course needs a second driver. So eight seats available and the most likely would be either the second seat at Williams or Toro Rosso, where he would be able to make a clean start. Petrov is a proven podium finisher, and he has two full seasons behind him. Also he has recent F1 experience, meaning he will stand a better chance of getting a seat, than say, Romain Grosjean. If and when, of course, he doesn´t accept the seat at Lotus (Renault).
My money is on him for staying at Lotus Renault, but in the case of that not happening, I´d say Williams alongside Barrichello.