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Panis announces his retirement 18 Sep 2006

Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota TF106 F1 Testing, Day 1, Monza, Italy. 29th August 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton.

Toyota revealed on Monday that Olivier Panis has decided to leave the team at the end of 2006 and thereby put an end to his 12-year Formula One career. Panis, winner of the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix, has been with Toyota since 2003, as both a race and test driver.

"Toyota has made much progress and I am happy to have been a part of this,” said the Frenchman. “The team was always very motivated and still is. I am really positive about the job the whole team has done and will miss everyone I have worked with.”

Panis last raced for Toyota in 2004 and having spent the past two seasons testing, the 40-year-old now hopes to return to a racing role elsewhere.

“I know that it is time for me to move on and fulfil my wish to race again,” he explained. “I am looking forward to new racing challenges outside Formula One but I will keep a close eye on Toyota's performance and hope they achieve all the success they deserve."

Toyota, meanwhile, thanked Panis for all his efforts over the past four years and wished him well for his future career.

"We are very thankful to Olivier for the high level of commitment he put into working with the whole team all along our four years of collaboration,” said team principal Tsutomu Tomita. “His technical experience and human qualities greatly contributed to our team development as much as to the improvement of its overall performance."

Panis made his Formula One debut with Ligier back in 1994, going on to take his first - and only - Grand Prix win in 1996 in Monaco. He missed the second half of the following season after breaking both legs in a crash at the Canadian Grand Prix, but recovered to continue racing for the Prost team in 1998. He spent a year as McLaren’s third driver in 2000 before resuming his racing career with BAR in 2001, finally switching to Toyota in 2003.