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Renault hope to unearth another Alonso

Renault will be watching Finnish test driver Heikki Kovalainen's every move this season to see whether he can fill departing world champion Fernando Alonso's shoes in 2007.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2006 18:26 IST
Reuters
Reuters
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Renault will be watching Finnish test driver Heikki Kovalainen's every move this season to see whether he can fill departing world champion Fernando Alonso's shoes in 2007.

"We will have a good team in 2007 also," team president Patrick Faure told reporters at the launch of the Formula One champion manufacturer's new car in Monaco on Wednesday.

Asked how they planned to fill the gap left by Alonso's decision to move to McLaren, and whether Renault intended to sign a 'superstar driver', he made clear that the team's spending power was limited.

"I wouldn't say that we have the budget to find the best drivers. I think we have a special talent to find new, very talented young drivers," Faure said.

"We will see with Kovalainen now and we may have some ideas for the future also with some young people," he added.

"I prefer, if I can, to create new stars than to buy them on the market, if possible. That's our policy and that's what we'd like to do in the future also. We like to create them, as we have created Alonso."

The 24-year-old Kovalainen is a Renault Development Driver who was runner-up in last year's GP2 feeder series and also beat Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and rally champion Sebastien Loeb in a 'Race of Champions' in Paris in 2004.

Spaniard Alonso joined Renault as a test driver in 2002 after a race debut with Minardi the previous season and, aged 24, became Formula One's youngest champion last year.

He stunned the sport in December when McLaren, Renault's closest rivals on the track in 2005, announced he would be joining them for the 2007 season.

FISICHELLA CONFIDENT

Faure said Alonso's Italian team mate Giancarlo Fisichella could also come into his own after a disappointing 2005 for the 33-year-old Roman.

The elation of winning the Australian season-opener evaporated with a series of non-finishes, but Fisichella is confident he can do far better this year and secure a contract extension.

"Fernando has proved this year that he was an extremely good driver, really top," Faure said.

"It's an enormous help for a team to have someone at this level.

"But I believe that Giancarlo now will be more integrated in the team than he has been last year. It was his first year of coming back and Fernando had been here for four years so he knew everybody.

"Now Giancarlo knows everybody, I think he will do a good championship in 2006 and I am waiting with a lot of impatience to see what Heikki Kovalainen is doing in the tests this year."

Fisichella returned to Renault last year after racing for Benetton, the team they took over, from 1998 to the end of 2001.

As champions, Renault will not be allowed a third car in Friday practice at grand prix weekends but Kovalainen will be the main test and reserve driver throughout the season.

First Published: Feb 01, 2006 18:26 IST