Panasonic Toyota Racing capped off a promising weekend with its first point from 2006 in today's Malaysian Grand Prix under the sweltering skies of Sepang. After showing strong potential in qualifying, yesterday's engine failure demoted Ralf Schumacher to the back of the grid but he battled strongly on a three-stop strategy on his way to 8th place. Jarno Trulli suffered a broken diffuser early on and thus endured a difficult afternoon's work. Nevertheless he ended up only one place further back, just outside the points. The Toyotas have shown improved pace this weekend but there is still a lot of work to do. Both Ralf and Jarno are scheduled to test at France's Paul Ricard circuit next week as the team aims to make further gains on its early season performance.
Ralf Schumacher started at the back but a lightning start helped propel him to 8th place in today's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 7, Chassis TF106/05) Race Classification: 8th
Gap: +1m21.288s (from race winner)
Qualifying Classification: 10th
Time: 1m34.586s (+1.059s in Session 2)
"That was a very interesting race and it is obviously good news to have scored our first point of the year so we are very happy with today's result. We certainly could not have expected that with a three-stop race from the back of the grid. We are also happy that our times showed that we are again competitive. But it was a difficult race today and of course that does not mean that we have solved all our problems. We have the cooler weather of Melbourne next so we will be testing in Paul Ricard next week to be as prepared as possible for that. We hope to be able to keep up this level of pace at the coming races. We have to keep fighting and try to push for the podium again as soon as possible."
Jarno Trulli narrowly missed the points after a hard afternoon's work with a broken diffuser around the humid Sepang.
Jarno Trulli (Car 8, Chassis TF106/04)
Race Classification: 9th
Gap: +1 lap (from race winner)
Qualifying Classification: 13th
Time: 1m34.702s (+1.175s in Session 2)
"I'm delighted that we scored a point with Ralf today. We should probably have finished with both cars in the points but it was really bad luck for me today. My afternoon got off to an unfortunate start when I suffered a broken diffuser when someone hit me from behind, just like in Hungary last year. That destroyed the rear of the car and that cost me today because I could have scored points. From then on I was suffering a mixture of oversteer and understeer and it was a big struggle so I just concentrated on driving as quickly as possible. We tried to adjust the car at the pit stops but obviously with the diffuser broken we could do very little. It's good that our pace has shown an improvement since Bahrain and we've gained some important data. We know we will succeed if we keep our heads down and work hard."
MAKING A POINT
Toyota scored its first point of 2006 but is realistic about the amount of work that lies ahead over the next few races.
Tsutomu Tomita – Team Principal
"That was obviously a much better performance over the whole weekend and a strong performance in the race thanks to a significant improvement in the combination of our car and our Bridgestone tyres. That gives the whole team a very high motivation which is the most important thing that we could gain here. Of course we are delighted that Ralf scored our first point of the year. Ralf was originally scheduled to do two stops but because of high pneumatic consumption we had to switch him to a three-stop strategy. So to score points from last on the grid is especially impressive due to that fact. Jarno struggled with a diffuser that was damaged early on, which meant he really struggled for race pace but he still finished 9th so those are very encouraging results. The team deserved that result for all their hard work, but now we must start pushing to get on the podium. We will go to Paul Ricard next week to test further development of our combination with the Bridgestone tyres in p reparation for the next race and then the start of the European season. We will keep pushing hard as we seek further success."