in Portugal -
The ING Renault F1 Team officially launched its 2009 season yesterday as the new Renault F1 R29 was unveiled to the world's media at the Algarve Motor Park near Portimao in the south of Portugal.
Both the team's race drivers, Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet, were on hand this morning to take the covers off their new challenger as they joined Managing Director Flavio Briatore for a photo call with the R29 in front of the team's pit garage. They were joined by young Frenchman, Romain Grosjean, who was announced as the team's third driver for 2009, and the latest recruits from Renault's Driver Development Programme: Davide Valsecchi from Italy, Charles Pic from France and Marco Sorensen from Denmark.
With radical revisions to the sport's technical regulations introduced this year, the R29 incorporates a new design philosophy and looks very different from its predecessor. Great attention has been paid to maximizing the new rules and the team is optimistic about its chances for the year ahead, as Flavio Briatore explained: "We began our preparations for the R29 project early and I am proud of what the team has achieved. There are lots of new things to deal with this year, which could shake things up, but we intend to continue fighting at the front. We will now concentrate on our final preparations for the start of the season so that we can arrive in Australia hopefully fighting for the podium."
Both Fernando and Nelson were delighted to get their hands on the R29 so early in the year. Having followed the car's progress closely over the winter, they paid tribute to the work done by the staff in the factories in Enstone and Viry. "The team has had a very busy development programme to allow us to be ready for the first January test with the new car," said Fernando. "Now we are all looking forward to seeing the result of all that effort on the racetrack."
ING Renault F1 Team President Bernard Rey also confirmed the commitment of Renault to the sport ahead of the new season. "This team is the proof of the ability of the Renault Group to obtain results and success at the very highest level," said Rey. "The team will therefore be supported by the whole Group throughout the challenges that lie ahead this year."
After the photo call, the R29 made its track debut as Nelson kicked off the team's winter development programme at the Algarve Motor Park. "It feels great to be in the R29, even though the weather was not great," said Nelson after his first day in the car. "Today was all about adding miles to the car, collecting data and learning as much as we could. Hopefully the rest of the week will allow us to build on the progress we have made today."
The car featured a fresh new livery in the colours of the team's principal partner ING, as well as eye-catching Total branding following confirmation of a new three-year technical partnership with Total Group. "We're very pleased to continue our sponsorship and Technology Partnership with ING Renault F1 Team," said Christophe de Margerie, CEO, Total. "It's a great partnership for Total group to be aligned with Renault in a legacy of excellence, as well as providing a good global venue for our brand presence. For Total, another key benefit – apart from winning Formula 1 races with a truly outstanding motorsports team – is to use our on-track research and testing to develop and deliver new and more efficient products that benefit everyday drivers under the most demanding driving conditions."
The ING Renault F1 Team will remain in the Algarve until Thursday to continue with its testing programme. Nelson will be in the R29 for a second day tomorrow before handing it over to Fernando for the final two days.