Michelin announced this week that it will quit F1 after 2006 but new world champions Renault are not worried that the decision will affect the performance next season. Renault and Fernando Alonso claimed both titles this season on Michelin tyres and technical director Bob Bell has every confidence that the French manufacturer is as keen to keep hold of the championships as the team is.
"We go into 2006 as world champions, and we are determined to defend those titles," said Bell. "I have no doubt that Michelin intend to do exactly the same. We have already seen enhanced collaboration between the Michelin teams this winter, and a rapid rate of tyre development. We are confident this will continue until the final round of 2006."
A team statement added: "We learn of Michelin's departure with regret but we respect their decision. Our technical collaboration in Formula 1 dates back to 1977, and culminated with double championship victory in 2005. But we enter the new season as world champions, and we are determined to do justice to that status."
Meanwhile, Renault has been on the track at Jerez this week for the final test programme of 2005. Test drivers Franck Montagny and Heikki Kovalainen have been behind the wheel and champion Alonso is scheduled for one day's work on December 16th. The team has been running the restricted V10 engine in the R25 chassis.
The new R26, the 2006 challenger, is due to make its debut in January. "We are on schedule with the project" said Bell. "As always, the programme for producing the new car is very tight because we look to maximise our design time before production begins, and then running time once it is complete."
"Indeed, for 2006 we have brought forward our first runs with the new car: this allows us to anticipate any issues that may arise when we run the V8 for the first time on track, and ensure we have a fully reliable package for the opening race in Bahrain."