FEBRUARY 14, 2007

Renault's new kids

For five years, the Renault Driver Development Programme has been trying to nurture new talent for Formula 1 and this year Heikki Kovalainen is racing with Renault F1, having been guided from 2002 in the RDD programme. This year there will be five drivers in the programme led by GP2 racer Lucas di Grassi, the 22-year-old Brazilian who joined the programme in 2004. He did well in F3 in 2005 but struggled last year in GP2. This year he will race with ART and will be expected to win races.

He is joined by rising Franco-Swiss star Romain Grosjean. The 20-year-old was born and grew up in Switzerland and has dual nationality but races on a French licence. He is hoping for a strong year in the Formula 3 Euroseries and will race with the dominant ASM team and so should produce results.

Also in the programme is 22-year-old British racer Ben Hanley, who was in the RDD programme last year in the Renault World Series. This year he will be challenging for the title with Prema Powerteam. There are two newcomers with 18-year-old Frenchman Nelson Panciatici, who will be racing in the Formula Renault 2000 series in France and in Europe and 18-year-old Spaniard Dani Clos, who was Italian Formula Renault champion last year and this year moves to the Formula 3 Euroseries

Championship with the Signature team.

Gone from the programme is the somewhat accident-prone Jose Maria Lopez of Argentina, who had a disappointing year in GP2 in 2006.