Lotus Renault GP refugee Vitaly Petrov will partner Heikki Kovalinen this season at the newly cristened Caterham F1 team (formerly Team Lotus) replacing Italian veteran Jarno Trulli, leaving the grid without an Italian for the first time since 1970. It comes as some surprise as Jarno Trulli tested at Jerez and completed filming for the team but follows a lackluster season for the 37 year old one time race winner.
One assumes Vitaly’s hurry up for his sponsors to say yay or nay have resulted in a go ahead this late in the game so he gets a seat at the best of the 2010 new teams. The switch has long been rumoured as Jarno Trulli was never confirmed as a race driver for this season, just being with the team despite being placed on the entry list. Despite Trulli’s long and relativly succesful career in the top flight it has been a long time since Italy has had a real superstar driver. Despite having the most successful and enduring team on the grid in the shape of Ferrari the country hasn’t tasted driver success in the overall standings since 1953.
However it should be noted that France last year was all but down and out in F1, with no race, team or driver flying the French flag. However this year there is a glut of French drivers joining the grid (Charles Pic, Romain Grosjean & Jean Eric-Vergne) and next year it is widely anticipated that the French Grand Prix will return. Monza is one of the safest races on the calendar if only because the pressure from Ferrari to have an Italian race would be too much for even Bernie to bare.
In some ways you have to be dissapointed with this decision for the team to take on a pay driver who has so far not massivly impressed in F1 and dump a popular and lone Italian on the grid so near to the start of the season. However Trulli was thrashed by his Finnish team mate and at 37 years old how long could he realistically continue with the team (Michael Schumacher and De La Rosa aside – most drivers hang up the F1 helmet before 40 in the modern era)