Having signed up former charge Fernando Alonso and tester Nelson Piquet Jnr to spearhead its Formula 1 challenge in 2008, Renault has made a special point of thanking outgoing drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen for their efforts throughout the year.

Though 2007 was a season that fell some way short of expectations for the defending double world champions - with no victories and just a single podium finish to their credit, courtesy of rookie Kovalainen in the rain-lashed Japanese Grand Prix - progress was made over the course of the campaign, allowing the French manufacturer to claim third position in the constructors' standings at the close of play, albeit a long way adrift of pace-setters McLaren and Ferrari, and frequently outperformed by the resurgent BMW squad.

Renault's main difficulties came as a result of being unable to adapt sufficiently quickly to the new Bridgestone control tyres introduced for the season, with fourth place for Fisichella in Monaco and the Italian's twelve years' experience in the top flight proving instrumental to producing a mid-season upturn in fortunes.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Giancarlo and Heikki for their hard work throughout a long and difficult year," commented managing director Flavio Briatore. "We expected to have a car capable of winning races, but that didn't prove the case. Rather than let their heads drop, though, both drivers worked even harder to turn the situation around.

"Giancarlo's experience was a crucial factor in helping us improve our performance, and he leaves the team after making a vital contribution to our two championship years in 2005 and 2006. We thank him for making these special moments possible for the team, and wish him well for the future.

"Heikki's rookie season included some challenges, but he coped with all of them and came out a better and stronger driver. He has shown everybody in F1 that he is a fast, intelligent and engaging driver, who is definitely capable of winning races in the future. We are proud to have given him his start in Formula 1, and wish him the very best for what is sure to be an outstanding career."

 

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