The Russian driver tells Gary Meenaghan about his views on being in Bahrain and his memories of racing there.
Formula One Q&A: Vitaly Petrov
Bahrain is this year paired back-to-back with China, yet you've managed to squeeze in a couple of days to relax. What have you been up to?
I haven't done much: some training, swimming and some water skiing. The season has just started, so we do not quite need to recharge the batteries at the moment. I just wanted to get some sun. It's good to have a back-to-back because afterwards we have a week off before testing in Mugello.
There has been a lot of talk ahead of this race regarding the situation in the country and the protests going in. How does it feel to finally be here?
Firstly, I trust the FIA with what they are doing because if it was dangerous they wouldn't let us in. And secondly, my team decided and I am contracted to them. The biggest thing we have to be worried about is the people in the grandstand. We need to make sure they have good security here. If they make sure nothing gets thrown onto that track to hurt us, then we'll be fine.
Is that something that is likely to play on your mind while you are racing?
You never know what people might do. If they want to, they will do it, but we hope security is big here. We feel safe. You try to stay focused, but it is good to keep in mind that it might happen. People who are checking the bags know what they need to do. We are here; if it happens, it happens. If it doesn't it is better and we hope everything is OK.
Your first F1 race was in Bahrain in 2010, you must arrive with good memories. There is a new configuration this weekend though; what do you make of it?
Yeah, my memories are good, but my car broke after the first stint. I was catching [Rubens] Barrichello who was in P10 and I was very close, but then my car died. The new configuration makes the track even better. The long part was not so good for spectators; you could not pass or do anything there, so it was a waste of time. Now, that section is shorter and so it should be better for overtaking.
The past two races has seen a couple of new faces on the podium in Sergio Perez and Nico Rosberg. That must give a driver confidence, surely.
At the moment all the teams are very close and you can expect whatever, maybe even a Williams on the podium. The last 15 laps of the last race was amazing, with seven cars chasing each other. It was like a train; we saw [Kimi] Raikkonen make a mistake and drop from P2 to P14, so it is making racing much more interesting.
Raikkonen is with your old team, obviously. You must miss fighting in that group in the middle?
Of course I miss it; it's a good challenge and this is what we like, to be part of the group and trying to pass people, but that is the team's ambition for the future. We aim for that.