Conceived in 2002, the Renault Driver Development programme (RDD) has quickly established itself as one of the most successful support programmes for spotting and nurturing young driving talent. Since its initial intake, the scheme has been equipping young drivers with the skills they need to succeed at the highest level of motor sport.
As young ambassadors for Renault, the RDD drivers are evaluated by criteria which take account of their on- and off-track performances, ensuring they mature as both drivers and people. Heikki Kovalainen is just one successful ex-pupil of the RDD: he graduated to Formula 1 with the ING Renault F1 Team in 2007, after five years in the programme, and will race for McLaren-Mercedes in 2008.
Renault Driver Development has earned a reputation as a prestigious, tough and effective proving ground. As before, continuity remains key for the RDD, with Romain Grosjean and Ben Hanley making up the 2008 class. They will have the opportunity to continue their racing education as they compete in GP2, F1’s feeder series.
Fresh from his title-winning success in the F3 Euroseries, Romain Grosjean joins ART Grand Prix for his first GP2 campaign. He will combine this with some testing duties for the ING Renault F1 Team.
Likewise, Britain’s Ben Hanley makes his GP2 debut this year following two seasons in the World Series by Renault. The 23 year-old joins Campos Racing and will look to follow in the footsteps of former RDD member, Lucas Di Grassi, who steps up to the ING Renault F1 Team as third driver for 2008.Interview with Ben Hanley Ben, how does it feel to continue in the RDD for 2008?
"When you consider how much experience and success Renault have in motor sport, especially in Formula 1, you realise how fortunate you are to have their guidance. Equally, the track record of the RDD speaks for itself, with Heikki Kovalainen completing the programme and graduating to F1 last year. I don’t think there’s a better driver development programme out there: I am delighted to be involved, and grateful for the opportunity."Tell us what the RDD involves?
"The aim of the programme is to bring on drivers so that they are equipped for F1 competition. The guidance of the RDD helps you mature as a driver and prepares you for different situations in life and racing, so that if you do reach the pinnacle of motor sport, you can hit the ground running. It’s an overall package that has proved invaluable to me."After finishing as runner-up in the World Series by Renault, you move to GP2 with Campos Racing for 2008. Excited about the year ahead?
"After a good season in the World Series by Renault, the move to GP2 was the logical next step for my career. The World Series is a strong championship and has launched the careers of drivers such as Robert Kubica, but in GP2 you have the opportunity to race in front of the F1 teams and you receive greater exposure. There is not that much difference between a GP2 car and a World Series machine, so I hope to adapt quickly – the GP2 car has a bit more power and is probably around 3 seconds a lap faster. I can’t wait for the racing to begin, so that I can concentrate on having a successful season."