Renault signs Finnish racer

THE Renault F1 team has signed Heikki Kovalainen on a long-term contract. The 20-year-old Finn finished fourth in last year's British Formula Renault Championship and will move to Formula 3 this season with Fortec Motorsport, which is using the Sodemo-developed Renault F3 engines in the British Championship and is funded by Renault.

The deal is similar to many of similar arrangements which have been undertaken by Flavio Briatore in recent months with drivers in the junior formulae to ensure that the F1 team has a long-term supply of cheap drivers. Briatore's management tentacles reach back into karting. The bad news is that not everyone who signs up is going to make it to F1 and that means that eventually the scheme will suffer the same problem as McLaren had a few years ago of people not wanting to sign up for fear of being locked into long-term deals which do not get them to F1.

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