MAY 29, 2000
Renault to get test car for 2001?
WHILE rival Peugeot is trying to decide on its future in Formula 1, Renault seems to know exactly what it is doing in Grand╩Prix racing and we hear that there are plans for the French car company to run a testing program this winter and throughout the summer of 2001 in preparation for its official return to F1 in 2002 with the Benetton team. Renault has bought the team already but agreed to leave it running as Benetton for the next two years so that when Renault does return it will be immediately competitive.
At the moment Flavio Briatore is in the process of revamping the team, hiring new staff and putting together a better package for 2002. A test team will enable the car company to run its new engine out of the public eye and away from rival teams. The car would be a 2000-spec Benetton in much as the same way as BMW's test car was an old Williams.
There are several advantages of an independent test team as it means that there are no testing restrictions which affect teams and manufacturers which are already in F1. These mean that cars can only run on certain dates at approved tracks and they have a restricted number of tires available. Such a program would also enable Renault to check out the effectiveness of Michelin tires while Benetton could go on using Bridgestone rubber.
It is expected that when Renault does come back to F1 it will be with Michelin, the two companies having very strong commercial links. It is worth remembering that Michelin first entered F1 with Renault in 1977. We would expect Renault's testing work to be carried out by a young French driver, possibly Laurent Redon, who has close links with Benetton and Renault but is currently out of work, despite suggestions that he may race in America this year.
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