End of the road for Panis
14 December 2006 – Today Olivier Panis will sign off his 12-year Formula One career at his last ever test. The Frenchman retired from racing at the end of 2004 but has since been helping with the development programme at Toyota. In September this year he announced he would be retiring at the ripe age of 40. The Lyonnais is looking forward to resurrecting his racing career outside of Formula One.
"Toyota has made much progress and I am happy to have been a part of this," said Panis.
"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."
Of his 158 Grand Prix starts, Panis amassed one win, five podiums and a total of 76 points.
He entered F1 in 1994 for the Ligier team, having won the International F3000 Championship the previous year. After a stroke of luck at Hockenheim in his first season he made it onto the second tier of the podium. However, the highlight of his career came undoubtedly at Monte Carlo in 1996 whilst still driving for Ligier. From an average 14th on the grid the Frenchman put in a sterling drive to take the chequered flag. Admittedly the race was chaotic and there were many retirements but he still managed to beat the likes of David Coulthard and Johnny Herbert, who were in superior machinery.
Panis stayed loyal to the French team and was there till the end of 1996, when it became Prost F1. He then stayed on to front Alain Prost's team, but suffered a nightmare in 1997 when he broke both his legs at Montreal. He recovered well to race the next season and till the end of 1999 when he decided to take a risk and take on a testing role at McLaren. The gamble payed off, however, as he was able to prove his true speed, which won him a drive at BAR. He raced there for the 2001 and 2002 seasons before seeing out the last two racing seasons of his career at Toyota. He retired from racing at the end of 2004, making him the last established French driver in Formula One.