Renault give Kovalainen the nod
The Renault F1 team has confirmed that Heikki Kovalainen will race alongside Giancarlo Fisichella in 2007.
Kovalainen, who was runner-up in the GP2 series in 2005, has impressed the team this year, having acted as their official third/reserve driver. The Finn has completed over 28,000 kiolmetres of testing for Renault since 2004 and the regie now reckon he is ready to step-up and race in F1.
"Everybody at Renault is very optimistic about our driver line-up for 2007 and beyond. We have taken the conscious decision to build for the future, without compromising the stability of the team in the short term," said team boss, Flavio Briatore.
"Giancarlo [who was confirmed back in June] is a proven force in Formula 1 and Heikki is already fully integrated into the team. After seeing performances in testing this season, we have very high hopes for him."
Kovalainen meanwhile added that he is over the moon with this chance and having spent two seasons testing, he should be more than prepared to compete at the pinnacle of the sport. While he is looking forward to 2007, he noted that his priority at the moment is to do all he can to help Renault defend their 2005 titles.
"I am thrilled to get the opportunity to race with a world champion team like Renault," he confirmed. "I have been a member of the Renault Driver Development programme since 2002, when I had the distant ambition of one day becoming an F1 driver. It is a fantastic feeling to have finally achieved that.
"My two seasons testing for the team, as well as my time in GP2, have allowed me to build my technical knowledge and to understand what it takes to win in Formula 1. I have also had the opportunity to show the team what I can do, and it is a great motivation to know that they believe in me. It will be a fantastic feeling to line up on the grid in Melbourne, but that is still a long way off. At the moment, I am totally focused on helping Renault win the 2006 championship."