Panasonic Toyota Racing has secured a double points finish at today's Japanese Grand Prix after Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher took the flag in 6th and 7th places respectively. Following the unsettled weather from the weekend, it stayed dry again today around Suzuka and the race took place with lots of sunshine and occasional clouds. The team came into the race confident of success after its best qualifying result of the season yesterday. Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli both started the race from the second row, in 3rd and 4th places respectively. Both drivers made good starts and although Jarno lost a position to Alonso into the first corner both cars were able to keep up with the leaders for the duration of their first stints. At the first pit stop, Jarno edged ahead of Ralf with a quick lap on his new tyres. After the second stops the pair dropped slightly down the order but they battled hard to the flag. The eventual haul of five points leaves Toyota just one point sho rt of 5th place in the constructors' championship and it sets up a promising season finale. The team will test at Jerez on Wednesday and Thursday with Ricardo Zonta and Olivier Panis at the wheel in preparation for the last race at Brazil's Interlagos circuit in a fortnight.
"Three points is not a bad result at the Japanese Grand Prix, but we thought we would do better today. I made a good start but I was boxed in going into the first corner and when I tried to go around the outside I lost a place. Early on the car felt good and I was easily able to stay with the leading cars. After the pit stop I was able to put in a quick lap on new tyres and I gained a place. Unfortunately it turned into a hard race for me after the second stop. Our strategy was pretty good, but I had several problems and struggled with my last set of tyres, especially on the first ten laps. We need to analyse what was different to yesterday, but the conditions were a bit cooler today and so that maybe affected our tyre performance. My pace improved after that but by then I was in traffic and it was difficult to pull away. So we could have had more but the important thing is that we both scored points for the constructors' championship."
Ralf Schumacher (Car 7, Chassis TF106/10B) Race Classification: 7th
Gap: +48.869s (from race winner)
Qualifying Classification: 3rd
Time: 1m29.989s (+0.390s in Q3)
"I'm glad that we have come away with a total of five points for the team but we could have achieved more today. We made a strong start and I held third position into the first corner. In fact the car felt good early on and we were able to keep up with the pace of the front-runners until the first stop. Jarno managed to get ahead of me on his new tyres and from then on I spent most of the day following him around the track. After the second pit stop he was slower than me. I tried to overtake but decided that it was too dangerous and too much of a risk with points at stake. Still, given our difficult weekends at the last two races I think we can be pleased with what we have achieved today."
Tsutomu Tomita – Team Principal
"That was an exhausting race and we are hugely disappointed because our target was to finish on the podium today. Yesterday's qualifying gave us fantastic grid positions and the dry conditions were perfect. We made good starts and although Jarno lost a place after Alonso's brave move we were able to keep up with the pace of the leaders during the first stint. Our first pit stop came just one or two laps before most of the other cars so our strategy was right again. Jarno was able to get ahead of Ralf on new tyres at the first pit stop but our pace was still strong in the second stint. At that stage a podium was still realistic, particularly given Michael's later problem. Unfortunately after the second pit stop Jarno suffered a problem that we will now have to investigate, which meant that he was slower for the next ten laps. He also held up Ralf, who was quicker at that stage, so that a few cars who should have stayed behind us were able to pass us. That's how we were in 6th and 7th at the finish. Today again shows that our car is still just short of the very top cars, but we were happy to have fought well in clear conditions without the safety car. We had a lot of support today so we would like to express our gratitude to all our fans, sponsors, TMC, distributors, partners and our subsidiary companies. A big thank you to all of them and we're sorry that we did not come away with more today."