Vitaly Petrov’s career as Russia’s only Formula One driver hangs in the balance after the Russian government cut off financial support, his manager Oksana Kosachenko told R-Sport on Thursday.
Petrov became the first Russian in F1 when he joined Renault in 2010, and now drives for Caterham, where his sponsors include Russian Helicopters, a company majority-owned by the government, while an earlier sponsor was the state-run Lada car maker.
“We have now lost government support,” Kosachenko said.
A Russian F1 driver could not hope to gather the necessary financial support from private sources, she said.
“There’s never been interest from sponsors. I’ve always said that it’s impossible to find sponsors in Russia for a project like Formula One. When there was support at the top level of government, this project worked commendably.”
Petrov has private sector sponsorship from Russian chemical company Sibur, which has close links to the Kremlin.
The resulting cash crisis could end Petrov’s F1 career, Kosachenko suggested.
“I don’t rule out a scenario in which we have to end this Russian driver’s competition in Formula One,” she said.
Despite the lack of Russian backing, talks on finding Petrov a seat for next year were otherwise progressing well, she added.
Kosachenko told R-Sport last month that she was talking to Caterham and three other teams about a place for Petrov next season.
Petrov achieved the only podium finish of his career with third at the Australian Grand Prix last year for Lotus Renault.
Petrov joined Caterham shortly before this season began, displacing veteran Italian Jarno Trulli and has recorded the team’s best result of the season with 13th in Valencia in June.