Renault wants to build success around driver with ‘emotional leadership’

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Renault Formula 1 chief Frederic Vasseur wants to build the French marque’s future success around a driver with “emotional leadership” as speculation about its 2017 line-up continues to swirl.

Renault returned to F1 as a constructor after six years away in 2016, pairing ex-McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen with 2014 GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer.

After taking over the financially-ailing Lotus operation at the end of last year, Renault has been focusing on rebuilding so far in 2016, scoring just six points in the opening 12 races of the season.

Speculation is rife about Renault’s planned driver line-up for 2017. Sergio Perez has been linked with a move away from Force India, while 19-year-old Esteban Ocon is also tipped for a seat following a half-season stint with Manor.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Vasseur said Renault was looking for a driver around whom the team could be built, citing examples such as Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

“If you look at the success stories of the past, success was always built around a driver,” Vasseur said.

“Schumacher and Ferrari, Vettel and Red Bull, Lewis and Mercedes, and also Alonso and Renault in the past – so the driver is important.

“A driver is not only about performance, but about being capable of leading a team.

“Right now we have more or less a thousand people in the team, if you take Viry and Enstone together, and that needs some sort of emotional leadership – and that is the job for a driver!

“We need a driver who is super-motivated and able to super-motivate everybody else.”

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.