The Renault F1 Team has announced its plans for the 2007 season and beyond.
The Renault F1 Team today announced the beginning of a new era for the reigning world champions, from the start of the 2007 season. Under the continued, dynamic leadership of Flavio Briatore and his senior technical staff, Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen will lead the French manufacturer's challenge in the 2007 season, aided by a team of test drivers composed of Brazilians Ricardo Zonta and Nelson Piquet Jr.
A Stable Management Structure
The Renault F1 Team is delighted to announce that Managing Director Flavio Briatore, 56, has renewed his contract for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Having led Renault's Formula 1 operations since 2000, when it purchased the Benetton team, Briatore is perfectly placed to manage the team into its next competitive cycle.
Furthermore, Briatore has reconfirmed the current technical management structure, which has championship-winning credentials. This will ensure continuity at the team's technical centres of Enstone (UK) and Viry-Châtillon (FR) under the respective leadership of Bob Bell and Pat Symonds, and André Lainé and Rob White. This stability will be crucial as the team adapts to significant short-term technical changes: the transition to a single tyre supplier from 2007, the introduction of homologated engines and the brand new Technical Regulations that will come into force in 2008.
Renault President Carlos Ghosn commented: "Under Flavio's leadership, the team achieved a remarkable double in 2005 by winning the Drivers' and Constructors' championships, and maintaining that competitiveness in 2006. I am counting on the determination, talent and effectiveness of Flavio and the entire Renault F1 Team, under the Presidency of Alain Dassas, to once again take Renault to the forefront of Formula 1."
Flavio Briatore said: "I am delighted to continue to lead Renault's Formula 1 challenge. It is an honour to be working for one of the top global companies, and with one of the world's leading managers. The commitment and enthusiasm Carlos Ghosn has shown for the Formula 1 project over the past year has been a key factor in my decision.
"It is now important for the Renault F1 Team to begin a fresh cycle of development from 2007, with a reinvigorated driver line-up and several major new commercial partners. This is the key to performing at the top level in the medium and long term.
"We begin this new cycle on the platform of a stable management structure, headed by team President Alain Dassas, with whom I enjoy an excellent working relationship, and myself. We know how important it is to manage change in an organisation, and we have a close-knit, dynamic team capable of fighting for victory. I am confident Renault will be a major force in Formula 1 in the years to come."
Blending Youth and Experience in the Cockpit
Having confirmed Giancarlo Fisichella as a 2007 race driver last June, the Renault F1 Team is pleased to announce that current test driver Heikki Kovalainen, 24, will race alongside him in 2007. The latest in a proud tradition of Flying Finns, Heikki has completed over 28,000 km of testing for the Renault F1 Team since 2004, and was vice-champion of the GP2 Series in 2005. He is now ready to make the step up to a Formula 1 race drive, and will have the unique opportunity to do so in a top-line team.
Heikki Kovalainen commented: "I am thrilled to get the opportunity to race with a world champion team like Renault. I have been a member of the Renault Driver Development programme since 2002, when I had the distant ambition of one day becoming an F1 driver. It is a fantastic feeling to have finally achieved that. My two seasons testing for the team, as well as my time in GP2, have allowed me to build my technical knowledge and to understand what it takes to win in Formula 1. I have also had the opportunity to show the team what I can do, and it is a great motivation to know that they believe in me. It will be a fantastic feeling to line up on the grid in Melbourne, but that is still a long way off. At the moment, I am totally focused on helping Renault win the 2006 championship."
The race drivers will be joined by a team of test drivers for the 2007 season, composed of Brazilians Ricardo Zonta and Nelson Piquet Jr.
Ricardo Zonta, 30, possesses eight seasons of Formula 1 experience, both as a race and test driver. His proven track record, combined with extensive technical knowledge, will be major assets in the development of the 2007 challenger and its adaptation to the new tyre regulations. He will join the Renault F1 Team after four seasons at Toyota.
Nelson Piquet Jr., 21, has marked himself out as man of the future during the 2005 A1 Grand Prix and 2006 GP2 Series championships. Son of three-time world champion Nelson Piquet, Nelsinho has shown both speed and guile in GP2, taking four race wins and five pole positions so far to put him second in the championship, with two races remaining. His role with the Renault F1 Team will allow him to develop his credentials in motorsport's leading discipline.
Flavio Briatore commented: "Everybody at Renault is very optimistic about our driver line-up for 2007 and beyond. We have taken the conscious decision to build for the future, without compromising the stability of the team in the short term. Giancarlo is a proven force in Formula 1 and Heikki is already fully integrated into the team. After seeing performances in testing this season, we have very high hopes for him. It is also a pleasure to welcome Ricardo and Nelsinho, who each bring different qualities to the team: Ricardo will have a key role to play in preparing for 2007, while Nelsinho has shown this year that he deserves his place in Formula 1. 2007 is the start of something new for Renault, and we believe it will be an exciting season."