At the forthcoming Barcelona test session, from December 2-4, the Renault F1 Team will give two rising stars their first drive at the wheel of a Formula 1 car: Finn Heikki Kovalainen and Argentine Formula Renault V6 champion Jose-Maria Lopez.
The forthcoming Barcelona test session will be one with a difference: not only will the Renault F1 Team be in action with regular test driver Franck Montagny, but two rising stars, both members of the Renault Driver Development Programme (RDD), will also get their first chance at the wheel of a Formula 1 car.
Heikki Kovalainen, 22, currently lies third in the World Series by Nissan championship, and has been a member of the RDD since early 2002, while Jose-Maria Lopez (20) crowned his first season in the programme with a stylish championship victory in this year's inaugural Formula Renault V6 Eurocup.
Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds explained the rationale behind the try-out: "While it may be thought that an F1 team is all about what is happening now, it is important to take a look at the future and assess the rising stars who may be driving for us in years to come. This season, the Renault Driver Development programme will give these two young drivers the opportunity to further their careers, and provide the F1 team with an opportunity to study these drivers at an early stage."
The philosophy behind the session is very simple: give the drivers a representative, rigorous programme in order to get a representative idea of how they cope with the demands of Formula 1. "When we ask drivers to test our cars, we give them a genuine programme to do," explained Symonds, "but without the same level of pressure as our contracted drivers. In assessing them, we don't focus solely on speed, but also their application and their understanding of the tasks they are asked to do. With any young driver, you are looking for consistency and a mature approach from their first drive."