The Renault Sport Formula 1 Team are hoping that it can achieve its aim of having a junior driver in a full-time Formula 1 race seat by the 2021 season, believing that “small steps” are being made.
Following its return to being a full works Formula 1 team in 2016, Renault have made numerous changes to their junior structure with the idea of incorporating more young drivers in the full setup.
FIA Formula 2 series driver Jack Aitken conducted official tests for the team last season and has retained his place in Formula 1’s premier feeder series for ’19.
Elsewhere, fellow Academy members Max Fewtrell and Anthoine Hubert claimed the Formula Renault Eurocup and GP3 Series titles respectively to finish a successful year for the programme.
Academy Director Mia Sharizman stated that the “long-term” objective of the programme, set up in February ’16, has been to have a driver graduate to Formula 1 by ’21 and says that Renault are currently on course to achieve this.
“As the year draws to a close, it marks the end of the third full year of the Renault Sport Academy and the end of the first of two phases of the programme,” said Sharizman.
“Reflecting on this season, it’s simple to say that we all want a perfect year; something that is very unlikely. Title wins are of course the better moments for young drivers, their teams and for us as a development programme. But it’s not always just about winning titles, more the manner in the way they are won.
“There are certain moments in a season where you realise which drivers you want to develop further.
“The objective of the Academy has always been long-term: to have an Academy driver in the Formula 1 race seat by 2021,” he continued.
“We’re making small steps and at this stage, we are meeting our targets. Drivers are beginning to fulfil certain, prominent roles within the team and this will continue to grow.”
Renault’s current driver pairing of Nico Hülkenberg and new signing from Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Daniel Ricciardo have contracts that run to the end of ’19 and ’20 respectively, opening up the possibility of promoting a young driver in the foreseeable future.
The 2019 season will see a number of junior drivers move into top race seats at their respective teams in Formula 1, including Scuderia Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc, Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly and the McLaren F1 Team‘s Lando Norris. Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport juniors Antonio Giovinazzi, Alexander Albon and George Russell will also feature for customer teams.
Sharizman believes that Renault can now enter “the second phase” in the development of the Academy and Formula 1 team, adding that they have drivers in the programme that have the potential to mature in the same time frame as the senior squad.
“The stage is set for the second phase for both the Formula 1 team and the Academy. We believe we have drivers who will mature in the time frame in parallel with the second part of progression for the Formula 1 team.
“The timing is right with the drivers we have, the level of racing they are signed to for next year and the year after, making the long-term target achievable.”