After a dream start to the season with two podiums from the three flyaway races, Panasonic Toyota Racing returns to Europe sitting pretty in second place in both the drivers' and the constructors' championship. Now the team heads to Imola for the San Marino Grand Prix hoping to maintain its impressive form and increase its haul of 25 points so far in 2005.
THERE'S NO RACE LIKE HOME
After two consecutive second-place finishes and three starts in the top three on the grid, Italy's Jarno Trulli arrives back at his first home race of the year with 16 points. The European April weather will be very different from the blast furnace conditions of Bahrain and Malaysia so comparative performance is harder to predict. But a cautious Jarno still hopes to build on his strong start to the year.
Jarno Trulli (Car 16): "Before the start of the 2005 season I never thought I'd be coming back to Europe in second place in the world championship. But thanks to a lot of hard work from the whole of the Panasonic Toyota Racing team that is the fantastic situation we are in. Expectations are obviously very high now but we have to keep our feet on the ground. Despite the fact that I'm racing at home, I'm not a particular fan of the Imola circuit. The most important factors for performance are braking stability and traction, but the weather will be colder than the last two races and in the past Toyota has struggled over the kerbs. Still, the TF105 has improved a lot and with further aerodynamic updates coming for the weekend, we should aim to score more points. That would be a good result."
A RIVAZZA RUNS THROUGH IT
Ralf Schumacher's fine race day performance in Bahrain led to a well deserved fourth place, his second successive points finish and a share of fourth in the championship with nine points. He now heads to the San Marino Grand Prix determined to maintain his upward momentum at a circuit that holds special memories for him.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 17): "I always enjoy returning to Imola. I took my first ever F1 win there in 2001 and I have enjoyed success at the track ever since - both in the races and qualifying. It would be nice to think I can maintain that record this year with Toyota, even if Imola has not been a kind circuit to the team in the past. It is one of the most technically demanding tracks on the calendar, with lots of long straights and slow corners. That means the brakes take a pounding but our braking performance was strong in Bahrain so we should be confident. Jarno and the team have done a magnificent job to score two podiums in a row, but after fifth in Malaysia and fourth in Bahrain, logic suggests the next podium should be mine! That's certainly what I'll be aiming for."
A strong performance at Imola depends on a car's ability to deal with the circuit's kerbs. Toyota has traditionally struggled at the track but Technical Director Chassis Mike Gascoyne reckons the TF105 is better equipped for the challenge.
Mike Gascoyne - Technical Director Chassis: "Kerb riding is an important factor at Imola. This has been a weak point for Toyota in the past but with the progress we have made this year and the improved handling of the TF105, I don't think it will be such a problem this weekend. Imola's cooler track temperatures will also make a massive change from the extreme heat we have faced at the last two rounds in Malaysia and Bahrain. In order to prepare we spent the last week testing at Paul Ricard to establish just how our Michelin tyres will behave in those temperatures and to make our final tyre choice for the race weekend. Overall, I see no reason why Toyota's newfound success cannot continue and we should aim for more points."