Panasonic Toyota Racing endured a dramatic day of Friday practice for the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis today. Within minutes of the start of the second session both Ricardo Zonta and Ralf Schumacher suffered separate incidents caused by suspected tyre-related issues. Ralf went off at the last corner, ironically at the same place that he had a big accident during last year's race. Thankfully the German walked away from the accident but as a precaution he has gone to the local hospital for a check-up. Ricardo had gone off moments earlier at turn 5 ending up in the wall. After establishing that there was no apparent car problem and consulting with Michelin, the team sent out Jarno Trulli. The mechanics were also able to repair the superficial damage on Ricardo's car before the end of the restarted session. But Toyota subsequently called in both drivers as a precaution because of concerns over one of Ricardo's tyres. The team is now investigating the nature of the problems in c!
onjunction with Michelin.
Jarno Trulli (Car 16, Chassis TF105/02)
First Session Classification: 13th, 7 laps completed Lap Time: 1m13.683s (+1.656s) Second Session Classification: 10th, 10 laps completed Lap Time: 1m12.344s (+1.226s)
"First let me say that I'm glad that Ralf is okay after such a heavy impact. It's really bad luck for him to go off twice in two years at the worst point of the circuit. That was a difficult day for the whole team. Because of the two accidents we did very little running. Of course it was also a difficult decision to go out again later in the session, but luckily nothing happened to my car. The strange thing is that so far the car doesn't feel too bad and we're reasonably competitive. But we don't yet have a clear idea about what the problems are with the tyres, so we're not fully confident yet about running the cars. We'll have to analyse everything tonight."
Ralf Schumacher (Car 17, Chassis TF105/03) First Session Classification: 11th, 7 laps completed Lap Time: 1m13.461s (+1.434s) Second Session Classification: 24th, 2 laps completed No lap time
"Thankfully I am feeling okay, but that was quite a big accident. Lightning is supposed not to strike twice in the same place but on this occasion I guess that does not apply to me. I was approaching the last corner when I felt something go wrong on the left-hand side. We will now have to investigate exactly what happened and why. The morning session had been fine, although the track was very slippery. I've never had much luck here as a driver, but I'm still hopeful that record will improve."
Ricardo Zonta (Car 38, Chassis TF105/05) First Session Classification: 2nd, 18 laps completed Lap Time: 1m12.085s (+0.058s) Second Session Classification: 19th, 6 laps completed Lap Time: 1m13.567s (+2.449s)
"I was approaching turn 5 when I just felt a problem at the back of the car, and I spun off. We will now have to investigate whether the tyre failure was caused by picking up something from the circuit. The car was not badly damaged so we were able to go out for another run before the end of the session but we stopped early because of concern over one of my tyres. It's a shame because this morning everything had been going okay. The Indianapolis circuit is always very slippery, particularly in the first session before any rubber is laid down, but it was improving by the time I went out later in the session."
Dieter Gass – Chief Race Engineer
"So far what we can see is that both Ricardo's and Ralf's accidents came as a result of a tyre-related issue. On both occasions we had no early indication from the tyre pressure sensors so it was a fast deflation. We don't know the reason why at the moment, so we will now set about analysing the data to understand exactly what happened. Maybe there is a point on the track where we are running over and cutting our tyres, because it seems to occur on the outside tyre. We made sure that we had no problem on the car and that the suspension was okay. Then we talked to our partner Michelin and agreed that it would be safe enough to go out again. But we subsequently found a third cut tyre on Ricardo's car so we stopped running early. It all means that we are missing a lot of data for the weekend, but we must now analyse what is happening and carry on from there. Ralf's car is not as badly damaged as we feared and it looks like we can use the engine again tomorrow. But the main thin!
g is that all our drivers are okay."