Renault to test rising stars in Barcelona 17 Nov 2003
Renault have announced that they are to give two young drivers their first taste of a Formula One car in testing in Spain next month. Finn Heikki Kovalainen and Argentine Formula Renault V6 champion Jose-Maria Lopez, both members of Renault's Driver Development Programme (RDD), will get their chance at Barcelona on December 2-4.
Kovalainen, 22, currently lies third in the World Series by Nissan championship, and has been a member of the RDD since early 2002, while Lopez (20) crowned his first season in the programme with a stylish championship victory in this year's inaugural Formula Renault V6 Eurocup.
"While it may be thought that an F1 team is all about what is happening now, it is important to take a look at the future and assess the rising stars who may be driving for us in years to come," explained Renault's Executive Director of Engineering, Pat Symonds.
Kovalainen and Lopez will not simply be asked to drive the car. They will be given a representative, rigorous test programme in order to give the team a clear idea of how they are able to cope with the demands of Formula One development work. "In assessing them, we don't focus solely on speed, but also their application and their understanding of the tasks they are asked to do," added Symonds. "With any young driver, you are looking for consistency and a mature approach from their first drive."
Of his imminent Formula One debut, Kovalainen told Renault's official web site: "I think I am capable of doing a good job in an F1 car, but if there are no opportunities for 2004, then I would like to stay in the Nissan championship and win it next year. Of course, the RDD will decide on what the next steps are, and I am fully confident they know what's best for me."
Also in action for Renault at the Barcelona test will be the team's new regular test driver, Frenchman Franck Montagny.
See also: Jaguar to test Klien and Bell in November