Renault Academy Director Mia Sharizman says “small steps” are being made in the programme’s plan and remains focused on getting a junior driver into a Formula 1 race seat within three seasons.

Since Renault’s fully-fledged return to F1 in 2016, its revamped junior programme has also undergone development changes as the French manufacturer aims to emulate its rivals’ junior ranks.

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While Jack Aitken became involved in F1 testing for the works team this season, Sharizman is eager foe the programme’s ultimate target of getting its junior drivers into the premier class secured by the start of 2021 – in two seasons’ time.

“The objective of the Academy has always been long-term: to have an Academy driver in the Formula 1 race seat by 2021,” Mia Sharizman said. “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.”

Aitken, the most senior member of the Academy since joining in 2016, dovetailed his Renault efforts with a maiden Formula 2 campaign this year taking one win and one additional podium on his way to 11th place in the drivers’ championship with ART Grand Prix.

Renault will announce its full 2019 junior line-up early next year and Sharizman conceded while it wasn’t “a perfect year” he feels clear progress has been made ahead of the “second phase” of Renault’s F1 commitments.

“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,” he said.

“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.

“There are also moments – sometimes away from the track - where you see the necessary characteristics required to go all the way within a driver: ruthlessness, a champion attitude, team work and hunger.”

Renault has signed Daniel Ricciardo on a two-year deal which starts in 2019, with teammate Nico Hulkenberg’s current contract expiring at the end of next year, which will keep F1 race seat options open for the French manufacturer for as early as 2020.

But Sharizman, who has previously been open to the idea of allowing Renault juniors to join customer teams to gain F1 experience, remains focused on the next part of its junior programme and feels “the timing is right with the drivers we have”.

“The stage is set for the second phase for both the Formula 1 team and the Academy,” he said. “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.”

 

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