The European Grand Prix is Panasonic Toyota Racing's home grand prix, under an hour's drive from the gates of the Toyota Motorsport's factory in Cologne. That means the Nürburgring grandstands will be heaving with Toyota fans and employees desperate for more glory as the team bids to keep up its fine start to 2005. If things go well on Sunday the paddock may once again echo with the race team's tuneful rendition of 'Viva Colonia'...
EUROPE: THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Jarno Trulli's first F1 podium came at the European Grand Prix in 1999. Another result like that would do the Italian no end of good as he bids to retain his top three position in the drivers' championship and keep up his mighty start to the year after narrowly missing out on points in Monaco.
Jarno Trulli (Car 16): "I'm lucky enough to have raced a lot around the Nürburgring from my time in German Formula Three so I know the circuit very well. That kind of experience helps when it comes to predicting what the weather could do and planning strategy, as it did when I finished second in a rain-affected race there in 1999. The circuit is quite challenging to drive but I really don't have any favourite corners. I'd call it a normal circuit – not particularly technical. The most important thing is to find a good rhythm. The corners come thick and fast and you can go quickly if you can string them together well. With the Toyota Motorsport's factory so close by we should have lots of support, not least from the employees themselves. Everything we manage at the racetrack is down to the work done by the guys in the factory. So it will be great to see them, there should be a great atmosphere and I hope to get back into the points with another good result."
BACK TO SCHLEIFE
As a youngster, Ralf Schumacher honed his driving skills around the awe-inspiring 20km Nordschleife, the predecessor to the current Nürburgring circuit. After his impressive 6th place finish in Monaco he will look to grab yet another strong result at the European Grand Prix, a race he won in 2003.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 17): "I've always really enjoyed racing at the Nürburgring, which is a special venue for me as it is very close to Kerpen, the town where I grew up. I used to practise my driving around the old Nordschleife although the lack of run-off areas means that I find it hard to believe that F1 cars ever raced there. This year will be my 20th race around the modern circuit in all formulae. I won my first Formula Junior race there and I was happy to win the grand prix two years ago. The circuit is quite typical of F1 with a mix of fast and slow corners. Tyre wear is important, especially at the rear because it is a traction circuit. This year's race will be extra special because this is the closest race to Toyota Motorsport's factory in Cologne. I have heard that every member of the team at the factory in Cologne has received a ticket to one of the grandstands over the course of the weekend, so Jarno and I will be sure to enjoy a tremendous amount of support, whic!
h will be highly appreciated."
With the entire Panasonic Toyota Racing team cheering on from the Nürburgring grandstands during the weekend, the European Grand Prix will have a special atmosphere. But that will not affect the focus of the race team as they look to bring home more points.
Mike Gascoyne – Technical Director Chassis: "Because the Nürburgring is the closest circuit to Toyota Motorsport's factory in Cologne we will have a lot of our people there watching very closely from the grandstands. You always try to do something special in your home races – and we have a lot of home races – but that doesn't mean you try any harder than usual. You do the best you can at every race. If there was room for improvement there's something fundamentally wrong with what you're doing. It does make life easy in terms of logistics, though. If we need a spare part it can be driven up within hours. The circuit itself is typical of F1 – unlike its predecessor, the Nordschleife. There is a reasonable mix of high speed and low speed corners and the cars run with fairly high downforce. Such a mix means a car has to be good in every area. When it comes to Toyota's performance, I think we'll be okay. We've shown ourselves to be pretty competitive on that type of circuit so I don't think we will have any issues there this week."