Zonta, a quiet hero

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Ricardo Zonta is one of the modern generation of drivers. He keeps his feet on the ground, and knows how to put the team’s interests ahead of his own when circumstances demand it. He doesn’t behave like a superstar; and see his role as the final link in a long chain.

When he talks about his new role with the Renault F1 Team, the Brazilian leaves no room for doubt. He will be working to help the double world champions defend their titles with honour. If that work can bring him a race seat some time in the future, that’s even better. But it’s not the priority. At the age of 30, the experience and character of the Brazilian will be valuable assets for the Renault F1 Team.

After becoming F3 SudAm champion in 1995, Ricardo Zonta decided to head for Europe – and found a drive in F3000 the following year. He proved competitive and, at the end of his second seasons, in 1997, he took the title with three wins and five podiums. The young hopeful’s reward came in the form of the opportunity to test for Jordan, and then a drive with Mercedes in sportscar racing, including racing at Le Mans in 1998. An offer from British American Racing followed, and he made his official F1 debut in 1999 with the brand new team. He worked alongside 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, but was injured in an accident at Interlagos - and only returned to racing in Montreal. His debut season had been ruined, and while performances improved in his second season, the new team was still finding its feet – and
Ricardo returned to Jordan at the end of 2000 as test driver. His duties were supplemented by two race starts following an injury to Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Naturally, though, Ricardo sought a return to racing – and took a brave decision to give new impetus to his career. He stepped down a level to compete in Formula Nissan, and won the title – which in turn brought a testing contract with Toyota for the 2003 season. He performed this role until the end of the 2006 season, including 5 race starts for the Japanese team in 2004. At the end of last season, he joined Renault F1 Team as test driver.

Ricardo Zonta is quick, reliable, and well used to the demands of an F1 testing programme. He will help the Renault F1 Team to evaluate the new Bridgestone tyres, and make an important contribution to the development of the R27. He intends to complete the role diligently – and to contribute to the team’s title challenge in 2007.

Source Renaultf1