Caterham replace Jarno Trulli with Vitaly Petrov for 2012 Formula One season
Jarno Trulli's career at Hingham is over after Caterham replaced the Italian Formula One veteran with Russian driver Vitaly Petrov for the new season.
Trulli has been on board with Tony Fernandes' Norfolk project since its arrival on the grid on 2010 – and repeatedly spoke of his '100pc' expectation of being on the grid again in 2012 despite rumours to the contrary.
However, those rumours clearly had substance and Caterham confirmed on Friday that 27-year-old Petrov, who found himself without a drive after being dumped by Hethel-backed Lotus Renault in the winter, will be Heikki Kovalainen's team-mate from the first race in Melbourne on March 18.
The news comes 24 hours after Norwich-born technical director and long-term F1 colleague of Trulli, Mike Gascoyne, officially stepped back from the day-to-day technical running of the team.
Trulli, 37 and a veteran of 251 grands prix, finds himself without a drive for the first time since he made his debut with Minardi in 1997 – and off the back of a disappointing 2011 season with the ex-Team Lotus outfit.
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In a Caterham statement, Trulli said: 'I want to take this chance to thank Tony, (shareholders) Kamarudin, SM Nasarudin, Riad, Mike and everyone in the team for the two seasons we had together.
'From zero we built up and established a solid F1 team. I'm really proud to have been part of it. 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.'
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With no test role available at Caterham given Dutchman Geido van der Garde's arrival as reserve driver, Fernandes admitted it was a tough decision to cut all ties with Trulli.
'I want to thank Jarno for the absolutely pivotal role he played in the formation and progression of our team since he joined us,' said team principal Fernandes.
'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. With that in mind it was not an easy decision to bring Vitaly in to replace Jarno, but it was one we made to ensure that we give fresh impetus across the whole team and with a realistic eye on the global economic market.
'Jarno has an incredible natural talent behind the wheel, and his winning record and longevity in the sport will bear testament to that talent in the Formula 1 annals forever, but now it is time to open a new chapter in our team's story, and Vitaly is the right person to help us do that.
'We have reached agreement with Jarno to bring an end to our partnership with him, but he will always be part of our family.'
Petrov, who finished 10th in last season's drivers' championship for Lotus Renault, will get his first taste of Caterham's CT01 at the second test of the winter in Barcelona, which starts on Tuesday.
During his time without a drive, Petrov's availability – and significant financial banking – had been put forward to a number of teams by none other than F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone – no doubt with thoughts of the Russian Grand Prix's return to the calendar in 2014.
But for the first time in more than 40 years, the Formula One grid will be without an Italian driver.
'This is a very exciting day for me,' said Petrov. 'I would like to thank Tony and the other shareholders for giving me the chance to join a team that made its F1 debut at the same time as me, and has grown from one of the new teams to a serious force for future honours.
'The passion and spirit that Tony and the whole team have to keep moving forwards is infectious, and 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.
'I have been training hard all winter and am ready to get back into the cockpit and go to work. From what I have seen already, our new car is another good step forward from 2011 and now I cannot wait to see how it feels when we get to Barcelona. I would also like to take this chance to thank all my fans and partners for their support and their patience.'