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Caterham replace Trulli with Petrov

Story highlights

  • Russian F1 driver Vitaly Petrov to race for CNN-sponsored Caterham in 2012
  • Petrov will replace Italian veteran Jarno Trulli, who has been involved in F1 for 17 years
  • The F1 season will start without an Italian driver for the first time in 43 year
  • Petrov's new teammate will be Finland's Heikki Kovalainen

The CNN-sponsored Caterham Formula One team have recruited Russian driver Vitaly Petrov in place of Italian veteran Jarno Trulli for the 2012 season.

Petrov, who became his country's first F1 driver when he signed with Renault in 2010, will partner Finn Heikki Kovalainen when the new season gets under way in Australia next month.

The decision to replace Trulli, who has started 256 grand prix's over 17 seasons, means there will be no Italian driver on the grid in 2012 for the first time in 43 years.

"This is a very exciting day for me," the 27-year-old Petrov said in a Caterham statement.

"The passion and spirit that (team principal) Tony Fernandes and the whole team have to keep moving forwards is infectious.

"I am honoured to be able to join them and play my part in helping the team mount a serious challenge to the teams ahead in 2012 and for many seasons to come."

Petrov finished last year 10th in the drivers' standings and achieved a third-place place finish at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

He will drive for his new team for the first time at the second official preseason test event in Barcelona next week.

Fernandes, who is also the majority shareholder of English football club Queens Park Rangers, was excited to welcome Petrov to the team.

"When we first met it was immediately clear that Vitaly understands and shares our vision for how we want our team to grow," he said.

"As the first Russian to race in F1 he carries the hopes of a huge nation with ease and his talents, experience with one of our current competitors and insights on and off track will play a huge role in our development as we fight to join the established teams ahead."

Fernandes also took the time to thank Trulli for his service to Caterham -- who had previously raced under the historic Lotus name.

"I also want to take this opportunity to thank Jarno for the absolutely pivotal role he played in the formation and progression of our team since he joined us in December 2009.

"Jarno knew that when he joined us it would be a very different environment to where he had been before, and when we gave him the package he wanted he absolutely shone."

The 37-year-old Trulli, who has also raced for Toyota and Renault since entering the sport in 1997, took the time to lend his encouragement to Caterham ahead of the new season getting under way in on March 18.

"I'm really proud to have been part of it," he said. "I understand the decision the team has made and I want to wish to the whole team the very best of luck for the season ahead."