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Panis ready to bow out at Suzuka 05 Oct 2004

Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota in the garage.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 28 August 2004 Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota with his wife.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Preparations, Monza, Italy, 9 September 2004 Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, 10 September 2004 Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota TF104B.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, 25 September 2004 Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota TF104B.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, 25 September 2004

Olivier Panis will make his final Formula One race appearance this weekend when he competes for Toyota in the Japanese Grand Prix. It will mark the end of a competitive career in the sport that has spanned more than a decade.

Panis, who made his Grand Prix debut with Ligier back in 1994, has chosen to retire from racing at the end of this season, and having agreed to let new arrival Jarno Trulli take his seat for the final round in Brazil, Suzuka will be his swansong.

"I love Suzuka. It is a very fast, high-speed circuit and one of my favourites on the calendar,” said the 38 year-old. “I always enjoy racing in front of the Japanese Toyota fans, but this year's event will also be quite emotional for me because it will be my final Formula One race.”

The Japanese race will be Panis’s 158th Grand Prix entry. However, the Frenchman, a winner in Monaco in 1996, will not be leaving the sport completely, as next year he stays on with Toyota in a testing and advisory role. Before that, though, he is determined to go out on a high at Suzuka.

“Although I will miss the excitement of racing, I will have the chance to give a big input in Panasonic Toyota Racing's future in my new role as third driver,” he said. “In that respect, having Jarno on board will be very helpful in setting ourselves up for next season.

“He has been a good friend of mine since our time as team-mates and I know we will work very well together. All I am hoping for this weekend is to finish my racing career with some points."

Panis’s career has, some would say, been one of unfulfilled promise. After some great early drives with Ligier, including his Monte Carlo triumph, he broke both his legs in a horrific accident in 1997, which put him out for the rest of that season.

After being dropped by Prost at the end of 1999 he was signed as a test driver by McLaren. However, with no race seat on offer from the Woking team for 2000, he opted to return to competition as Jacques Villeneuve’s team mate with the newly-formed BAR team. He switched to current employers Toyota for 2003.