Born in Vyborg, Russia, on 8 September 1984, Vitaly Aleksandrovich Petrov made his first appearance in Formula One at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix. He did not have the opportunity to take part in karting, as many top F1 drivers have done. In 2001 he started competing in the Russian Lada Cup. He did the same in 2002, this time earning the maximum number of points (500) by winning all the rounds, thus gaining the title.
Vitaly Petrov made a move to Formula Renault racing in 2003. Racing for Euronova Racing in the Italian Championship, he finished in 19th position overall. That same year he made it to fourth position in the British Formula Renault Winter Series. In 2004 he returned to Russia for the Russian Lada Revolution Championship, where he finished in runner-up position. He also took part in the Formula Renault 2000 Italia and Eurocup, as well as the F3000 Euro series. Petrov won the Lada Revolution Championship in 2005, and also became the Formula 1600 Russia champion.
In 2006, Petrov took third position overall in the F3000 Italy series and Euroseries 3000. That same year he debuted in the GP2 series, competing for David Price Racing. During 2007 Vitaly Petrov took 13th position in the GP2 series and also participated in the Le Mans Series and Formula Master Series. He also enjoyed success in 2008, coming in third in the GP2 Asia and seventh in the main GP2 series. In 2009 he made runner-up in the GP2 Series, after two wins and seven podiums. He also got fifth in the GP2 Asia standings.