Renault team co-owner Gerard Lopez says the squad needs to see more commitment from Vitaly Petrov before it can be confident about re-signing him for 2011.
The Russian remains strong favourite for the second seat in the rebranded Lotus Renault team alongside Robert Kubica, but Lopez wants Petrov to make some changes off-track to back up his undoubted speed.
“I have always said that my preferred choice would be to keep Vitaly in the car,” Lopez told Reuters.
“I think the discussion to be had with Vitaly is not one about speed – our engineers tell us that he sure has the speed to compete.
“What he doesn’t show in a consistent way is the capacity to focus on a complete weekend and deliver from first practice to the end of the race on Sunday – and that’s what we have to discuss with him.
“Part of the discussion is that he needs to accept a certain change in life, he needs to accept to move to the UK and be close to the factory.
“He needs to accept to be in an English-speaking environment all the time and if he accepts those things, and if we believe that through those things he can deliver consistency, then there’s no question about who is going to be our second driver.
“If for some reason he thinks the things we are asking from him are not the things he wants to do, then for sure it’s going to be a serious question who is going to be our second driver.”
Petrov produced some superb performances during his maiden Formula 1 season, highlighting by his confident run to fifth in Hungary, but there were also occasions when he was off the pace and too many heavy crashes for Renault’s liking.
“We want him to succeed,” Lopez added.
“We don’t want him to be a guy that comes and just shows up and drives great one weekend and then nothing.
“I think detaching a little bit from his family… it’s probably going to be tough for him sometimes but it’s going to be very beneficial for him in terms of his career.”
Although Petrov’s presence has attracted a number of Russian sponsors to Renault – and the deal for Russia to host a grand prix in 2014 is set to increase the nation’s interest in F1 – Lopez underlined that if Petrov was retained it would be for performance reasons, not financial considerations, as he believes Petrov wouldn’t attract any extra backing if he wasn’t competing near the front.
“They don’t want a Russian driver that is going to qualify 17th or 18th and race up to 15th,” said Lopez.
“That is of zero interest to the Russian market and is actually perceived as negative.”