Panasonic Toyota Racing has recorded its second consecutive fourth-place finish after Ralf Schumacher took five points at today's French Grand Prix. Running on a two-stop strategy Ralf battled strongly throughout. He narrowly missed out on the podium despite losing time with a problem with his left rear wheel nut at his first pit stop on lap 22. It was another day of mixed emotions for the team as Jarno Trulli was forced to retire at half distance due to a problem with his brakes. Jarno had been running strongly throughout the first stint and was confident he could have battled for the podium. Indeed, for three laps during the first round of pit stops the car in front really was a Toyota, as first Jarno and then Ralf led a grand prix for the first time in 2006. The eventual haul of five points takes the team up to 5th place in the constructors' championship with a total of 21. Toyota will now move to Spain's Jerez circuit next week as it tests in preparation for the German Gr and Prix at the end of July.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 7, Chassis TF106/09B) Race Classification: 4th
Gap: +27.212s (from race winner)
Qualifying Classification: 5th
Time: 1m16.091s (+0.598s in Session 3)
"We can be very satisfied with what we achieved today. It's a pity that we had a problem with the wheel nut at the first pit stop because we could probably have made the podium but these things happen. It was also a pity that Jarno had his problem but apart from that it was a very good weekend. We expected the car to be competitive because that is the way it has looked ever since Friday practice. The race was good for us too - the car was quick and the Bridgestone tyres were very good too. Our tyres have had the edge all weekend and we made a very good choice aimed at this two-stop strategy for the race. Our package has improved at every race recently so we can now look forward to maintaining this kind of performance for the rest of the season."
Jarno Trulli (Car 8, Chassis TF106/08B)
Race Classification: DNF
Qualifying Classification: 4th
Time: 1m16.036s (+0.543s in Session 3)
"That was a real pity because everything was running smoothly in the first stint. The car was quick and our Bridgestone tyres were great. Because I was on a two-stop strategy while everyone else was on three stops I was confident that I could have fought for the podium. Unfortunately after the first pit stop I felt a slight drop-off from the engine. Soon after that the brake pedal started getting longer and longer and it was too dangerous to continue so I had to come in. So again it was very unlucky and I'll add it to a long list of things that have happened this season. I've had some good races this year but points have been hard to find. But you can't blame the team because it is never the same problem twice. Our pace has been great all weekend so despite the difficulties we are definitely on the up. Step by step we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Tsutomu Tomita - Team Principal
"It is difficult not to be disappointed today because even if that was one of our better finishes of the year, both of our cars had the pace to be on the podium today. We made a very good tyre choice and because of the consistency of our Bridgestone tyres we were able to opt for a two-stop strategy today, which was the correct move. That, combined with the progress we have made on the car, led to a very competitive race weekend from us. Everything ran smoothly from Friday practice right through qualifying yesterday but in the end we failed to make the podium because we are still having some reliability issues. Today we had a problem with the left rear wheel nut at Ralf's pit stop which cost us more than ten seconds while Jarno had to retire with a leak on the braking system. So we have to say sorry to Jarno and well done to Ralf who did a very good drive. We are going in the right direction and we will push to develop further. Our pace is improving with every race and we are still chasing our first win this season."