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Powerful Petrov prevents Alonso again for second time in a row

The Renault driver stood in the way of a third title-chasing Alonso last year in the season-ending race at Abu Dhabi and he did it again today with at the first race.

MELBOURNE // Fernando Alonso has not spoken to Vitaly Petrov since the Russian refused to let him pass at Yas Marina Circuit in November.

Alonso was desperately chasing a third world title at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but Petrov's Renault stood in his way and by failing to get past, the Spaniard relinquished the drivers' championship lead, and thus the title, to Sebastian Vettel.

Yesterday, in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Petrov once again proved a problem. Only this time, the Russian held off his Iberian avenger to not only score more points, but also to secure his first podium finish.

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Petrov's third-place finish may have been 30.56 seconds off Vettel's winning time of 1hr 29mins 30.259secs, but his assured performance fighting up from sixth on the grid was the talk of the paddock.

When Renault lost Robert Kubica to injury, the Polish driver was replaced by the veteran Nick Heidfeld, but the onus was on Petrov to step up. At Albert Park, he did exactly that.

When Petrov was asked if he felt like he had proved to doubters that he was capable of replacing Kubica as Renault's lead driver, he answered: "I think I don't need to answer anything - you can see: Yes."

"I'm delighted to be on the podium, especially after the winter that we had as a team, which was very tough," he added, dedicating his win to all the Renault staff.

"I made a great start, which was probably the key for my race because it got me ahead of Alonso and [Jenson] Button, and I was able to run in some clean air and push hard, as well as looking after my tyres."

Eric Boullier, the Renault team principal and managing director, revealed that Kubica had sent a congratulatory message after the race and said the result will provide a solid foundation for the next grand prix in Malaysia.

"The podium is a huge relief and a big reward for all the work which has been done by all the team, and obviously I am very happy," Boullier said.

"It shows that the decision we took to be aggressive with the design of the car was the right call, and it's something we can build on going forward.

"The performance of Vitaly was very strong and it shows that we can deliver strong results this season.

"In fact, I have no doubt that both our drivers can be fighting towards the front at the next race and that we can build on the competitiveness we have shown this weekend."

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