Toyota F1 pilot and former Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis will retire from racing at the end of the season, but has signed on as the Japanese team’s test driver until the end of 2006.

Toyota F1 pilot and former Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis will retire from racing at the end of the season, but has signed on as the Japanese team’s test driver until the end of 2006.


The French driver, 38, made his F1 début with Ligier in 1994 and is a veteran of 155 grands prix. He scored his sole Grand Prix win in Monte Carlo with the French Ligier team in 1996.


In his role as third driver, Panis will substitute if either Toyota race driver is unable to take part in the Grand Prix weekend. However, he is not eligible to run the third car during Friday practice sessions, according to current FIA regulations, which stipulate that the driver of the third car must not have participated in more than six Grands Prix in the last two years.


Panis apparently decided to retire from racing a couple of months ago, but the former McLaren test driver and Toyota came to a mutual agreement on a test role for the next two years. The Frenchman will also adopt an advisory role for Toyota's young drivers programme, the Toyota Drivers' Academy.


"I am proud that Panasonic Toyota Racing has decided to retain my services," Panis said. "I have a strong relationship with everyone at Toyota and I am pleased to be able to continue my work as a representative of the team both on and off the track. I am looking forward to helping the team move further up the grid and I am confident that together we will reap the rewards of our combined efforts over the last two years."


Jarno Trulli, who announced he would leave Renault earlier this year after a spat with team boss Flavio Briatore, was expected to join the squad alongside Ralf Schumacher in 2005, but Toyota pointed out that the final decision had not yet been taken.


"Contrary to reports, Toyota Racing has not yet finalised its complete driver line-up for 2005, but the team will make an announcement once all details are concluded," the team said.

Original article from Car