x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Petrov keeps Alonso behind him

The Renault driver says "I came here to fight, and race every other driver, and I think I showed today that I can fight."

ABU DHABI // Vitaly Petrov defended his driving after he managed to keep Fernando Alonso behind him for 39 laps to help frustrate the Spaniard's world championship dreams.

The Renault driver finished sixth, one spot ahead of Alonso, after some quick-thinking from his engineers had helped him leapfrog most of the field with an inspired strategy call early in yesterday's race at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Alonso tried desperately to pass Petrov, running wide at Turn 11 on lap 24, and his frustration boiled over after the race as he waved his fist at the Russian on their slowing down lap as the pair drove back to the pit-lane.

But Petrov denied he had done anything wrong.

"I just did my job," he said. "If he had tried a move, then I didn't want to crash with him, but it didn't come to that. I came here to fight, and race every other driver, and I think I showed today that I can fight.

"The car had good top speed today so I was able to control the situation."

Petrov, whose place with Renault is believed to be in doubt for next season, had pitted at the end of the first lap, along with five other drivers, when the safety car was out due to Michael Schumacher's collision with Vitantonio Liuzzi at Turn 6.

The move from the softer Option tyre to the harder Prime compound allowed Petrov to go through until the end of the race without having to stop again, and he moved up the order as other cars went into the pits.

The 26-year-old added: "We pitted under the safety car, which was the right decision, and after that I just tried to push while looking after the tyres because I knew that the plan was to go to the finish.

"We have been fast all weekend and I am proud of the team and the job we did."

It was Renault's best performance of the season as they had two cars in the top six for the first time, with Robert Kubica coming home in fifth after a battling performance. The Pole had dropped from 11th on the grid to 14th, however a long first stint, which ran through until lap 47, saw him placed as high as second before his pit-stop.

Kubica believed his passing move on Sauber-Ferrari's Kamui Kobayashi on lap 26, where he went around the outside of the Japanese driver at Turn 11, was crucial to his result.

"That was a key moment, and afterwards I just concentrated on getting the maximum from the car and setting quick laps," he said.

"The car was still difficult to drive this afternoon, but I pushed really hard because I had nothing to lose - and I'm very pleased to finish fifth after starting 11th."

gcaygill@thenational.ae