The ING Renault F1 Team race driver pairing will be aided in their test and development work by third driver Lucas di Grassi and test driver Romain Grosjean. 23 year old Brazilian di Grassi will conduct the majority of the team’s development work alongside Fernando and Nelsinho, while Grosjean will get his first taste of F1 at a number of tests during the year.
Interview with Lucas di Grassi
This year you will be the ING Renault F1 Team’s third driver. How does it feel to be given this opportunity?
"It feels great. I have been with Renault since 2004 in the Renault Driver Development Programme and so I know the people I will be working with. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have the support of Renault, and I will do whatever I can to help them perform in 2008."
What will your programme be for this year?
"My programme for the coming season is to attend most of the test sessions and all the races as the reserve driver. I will observe the team and how it operates so that I constantly keep improving."
Fernando Alonso returns to the team this year. How does it feel to have the chance to work with a double world champion?
"Fernando is a very successful and talented driver. I want to learn from his experience and become a better driver so that I can help the team as much as possible when driving the car at the tests."
How well do you two know fellow Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr?
"We have a good relationship as we have known each other since our karting days. Then, in 2006, we raced together in GP2 – so we know each other pretty well. The first time we raced against each other was in 1998 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with Junior Go-Karts, and now ten years later, we will work together at the ING Renault F1 Team, trying to make the team win again."
You are part of Renault’s Driver Development Programme. Tell us what that involves and what their support means to you?
"I have spent four years in the Renault Driver Development Programme (RDD), as did Heikki Kovalainen. The RDD was my ‘school’, as well as my financial support in the lower racing categories. The programme’s philosophy is to develop young drivers into F1 drivers, helping them in every aspect of racing. I am very thankful to Renault for giving me this opportunity."
You enjoyed a successful GP2 campaign last year finishing as the runner-up. How does an F1 car compare to GP2 machinery?
"The cars are more similar this year without electronic aids. The F1 car is much faster and requires a different technique to drive, but the GP2 car is as close as you can get to F1 machinery and it is a great school."
And your personal goals for 2008?
"My personal goals are very simple: I will work as hard as I can to improve as a driver and as a person in 2008 to help the team to achieve victories."
There are three Brazilian race drivers in F1 this year, and yourself as a third driver. What has been the reaction to this news in Brazil?
"Brazilian people love F1 and the drivers that represent their country, and so the reaction is always positive. And, of course, Brazil has an inspiring tradition in F1, and has produced many F1 legends. That motivates me to work hard to try and reach their level."
Interview with Romain Grosjean
Romain, you have been announced as an ING Renault F1 Team Test Driver for 2008 – you must be delighted?
"It is a pleasure and an honour to be part of the ING Renault F1 Team and, of course, I’m very proud to have the chance to drive an F1 car. This is an opportunity that does not come along every day and I intend to make the most of it. I will work hard to show Renault they did not make a mistake in taking me on, and to do the best job possible."
How are you looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car for the first time?
"For a driver it is a dream to drive an F1 car and I am really looking forward to it. These are the best cars in the world, but they are not easy to drive and there is a lot to learn in a short time. I
will have lots to get used to, but I hope to contribute to the team’s success and show the engineers that I am capable of doing a good job."
You are part of an elite group of drivers who have the backing of the Renault Driver Development programme. How important has their support been to your career?
"The support from Renault was vital – it was the only way to keep my racing career going and I am grateful to have the backing of Renault. Racing becomes more expensive as you go up the ladder and so the support of a good programme is essential. It is a big chance and I am proud to be in the Renault Driver Development programme for the 2008 season and will keep working hard for the future."
You enjoyed a successful F3 Euroseries campaign last year, winning the championship. How rewarding was that?
"It is one of the hardest championships and there was extra pressure as I was one of the favourites for the title. I was told that if I won the title, I would get a good seat in GP2 and so I was extremely motivated to do well. It was an enjoyable year and winning the title was great for me. It was a good experience as I had to keep my focus and keep delivering strong performances up until the final races."
As well as testing for the ING Renault F1 Team, you will compete in the GP2 series with ART Grand Prix. How important a step is GP2 for a young driver?
"GP2 is one of the biggest steps a driver can make as it is the last series before Formula 1. It also provides drivers with a good opportunity to impress as the GP2 races are held at all the European F1 races and everybody in the paddock can see what you do. You can demonstrate if you are good enough to make it to F1. It is a series that has proved to be the best way to graduate to F1, and my goal is to have a successful season with ART, which is one of the best GP2 teams."
You are a French driver with a French team. That must give you extra motivation to make the most of this opportunity with Renault?
"My ultimate goal is to become an F1 driver and to do that with a French manufacturer would be great. Perhaps there is a little bit more pressure because there have not been many French Formula 1 drivers recently, but I am on the way thanks to Renault’s support. Of course, I would love to be the next French Formula 1 driver for the ING Renault F1 Team!"