Panasonic Toyota Racing announced today that Olivier Panis has decided to leave the team at the end of 2006 and thereby put an end to his twelve-year Formula One career.
Olivier, whose test driver contract expires at the end of this year, explained: “Toyota has made much progress and I am happy to have been a part of this. The team was always very motivated and still is. I am really positive about the job the whole team has done and will miss everyone I have worked with, yet I know that it is time for me to move on and fulfil my wish to race again. I am looking forward to new racing challenges outside Formula 1 but I will keep a close eye on Toyota’s performance and hope they achieve all the success they deserve.”
The team extends its thanks and gratitude to Olivier for his support over the last four years and wishes him all the best for his future endeavours.
Panasonic Toyota Racing Team Principal, Tsutomu Tomita, says: “We are very thankful to Olivier for the high level of commitment he put into working with the whole team all along our four years of collaboration. His technical experience and human qualities greatly contributed to our team development as much as to the improvement of its overall performance. We understand and accept his desire to continue racing. We thank him for sharing his know-how and will support him in whatever he chooses to do.”
With the likely revisions of testing format and new driving duties for Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta after the end of 2006, Panasonic Toyota Racing expects to reach an agreement soon for Franck Montagny to join as third and test driver.
Panasonic Toyota Racing is also looking to take advantage of the Toyota Young Drivers Programme to promote a young driver to the testing team.
Once the test driver line-up has been finalised, Panasonic Toyota Racing will issue further details.