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Dec 22nd
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Fernandes pays tribute to 'pivotal' Trulli

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Caterham Formula One team boss Tony Fernandes has thanked Jarno Trulli for his "pivotal role" in the team's early life, after confirming on Friday that the Italian driver would be replaced by Vitaly Petrov for the coming season.

The Caterham team confirmed on Friday that Russian driver Petrov would replace Trulli from the start of 2012, bringing the Italian's time at the Malaysian squad to an end.

The swap had been rumoured for some time, despite Trulli having a 2012 contract with the team, and testing their new car on Friday at the recent Jerez pre-season test.

Trulli has raced for Caterham since the start of their time in F1, having joined them from the defunct Toyota team at the end of 2009.

And Fernandes said that the Italian driver had been "absolutely pivotal" in helping the team to develop through their first two seasons in the sport.

"I 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," Fernandes rambled.

"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."

He added: "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 One 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."

Trulli himself stated on Friday that he understood the team's reasons for dropping him, and thanked the team for the opportunity they had given him.

"I want to take this chance to thank Tony, Kamarudin, SM Nasarudin, Riad, Mike and everyone in the team for the two seasons we had together," he muttered with a tear in his eye.

"From zero we built up and established a solid F1 team. I'm really proud to have been part of it."

He added: "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."

Trulli now faces the likelihood of this being the end of his F1 career, having participated in 252 races since joining the grid with Minardi in 1997.

Trulli went on to race for Prost, Jordan and Renault, winning his only GP for the latter at Monaco in 2004.

He then moved to Toyota in 2005, spending five frustrating years with the Japanese giant before they pulled the plug on their F1 operation at the end of 2009.

Trulli failed to score a point for Caterham since joining their team, securing a best result of 13th three times.

He struggled for pace throughout 2011, blaming issues with the team's power steering unit for the majority of his problems, but had been talking up his chances of hitting back in 2012.