After the team’s positive start to the 2007 F1 season, Panasonic Toyota Racing is now on its way to compete in this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Taking place at Sakhir, an oasis of tarmac in the middle of the desert, the race makes up the second part of the double-header that began with yesterday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. Most of the grid took advantage of two weeks of testing in Bahrain before the start of the season so it will be fresh in the memory as they return to the Middle East. The Bahrain Grand Prix has so far provided mixed memories for Toyota. In 2005 the team made the podium courtesy of Jarno Trulli’s second place but last year’s race was one to forget. Now both Jarno and team-mate Ralf Schumacher will look to build on Toyota’s points-scoring start to the season on Sunday.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 11): "The home of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, is one of the latest breed of race tracks and a gre at modern facility. We know that Bahrain will be hot but the heat should not be exceptional and it is less humid than the last race in Malaysia. Even if we do face extreme conditions the teams have so much experience that from a technical point of view it shouldn’t make too much difference. We had a mixed time here during the two weeks of testing before the season but we were able to make some improvements towards the end. Since then we have made a strong start to the season but we clearly have some work to do to catch the top teams. Still, you need to watch a few races before you get a clear picture of the situation. I didn’t have the best of races in Malaysia but we will look for an improved performance and better finish in Bahrain."
Jarno Trulli (Car 12): "We have had a solid start to 2007 and while we performed well in Melbourne and Malaysia, Bahrain has proved difficult for us in the past. I was delighted to make the podium here in 2005 but last year we had a problem b ecause it was the first race and we didn’t fully understand how to make the most of our package with our new tyres. At this year’s pre-season test at Sakhir we struggled too. So it’s never been our track but there is no particular reason why it should be hard for us. It’s an incredible venue with state-of-the-art facilities and it is not a difficult track from a driving perspective. It is hard on braking and there is always wind which brings dust and sand onto the track. Otherwise it is a very clean, smooth circuit with few bumps. We have had a reliable start to the year and we head to Bahrain looking to improve our fortunes in the kingdom with a good result."
Pascal Vasselon – Senior General Manager Chassis: "The Malaysian Grand Prix showed we had progressed since Melbourne so we must now look to build on that. Bahrain was the first race of 2006 and our worst race of the year. Because we hadn’t tested in warm weather before the start of the season we didn’t discover that w e had bigger than expected warming up issues with our new tyres. It was also slightly cooler than usual with track temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius. This year the race is later in the year so we expect it to be warmer. Our pre-season test at Bahrain this year didn’t go too well – which triggered most of the alarms in the outside world about our form. But the main problem was that we had many reliability issues. They were all minor and have since been solved but it limited our running time and limited our pace. At the following test at Jerez our reliability was better and so was the pace. In Malaysia we had developments to the suspension and a new floor and engine cover. We will run the same package in Bahrain before a big aero update for the next race at Barcelona. We will hope to return to Europe on the back of another strong performance."