Panasonic Toyota Racing has picked up its debut world championship points of the season in the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya today. Starting from 13th on the grid, Cristiano da Matta drove a strong race to claim 6th position and three points, making full use of a three-stop strategy. After qualifying in 6th yesterday, his French team-mate Olivier Panis was also running in a strong points-scoring position before a suspected gearbox problem ended his race 24 laps from the finish.
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21, Chassis TF103/02
Classification: 6th +1 lap (from race winner)
Starting Position: 13th
"I am happy with this result today for myself and for the whole team. This was one of the first clean races we have had this season and overall it was a generally trouble-free weekend for me. It feels good to score points for the first time - the first of many I hope! We really deserved fifth place, but I just couldn't get past Ralf at the end. My brake pedal was going a bit too long from midway through the race, so I couldn't push hard enough. Barcelona is a track where we knew we would have a good performance and we have been highly competitive all weekend, but I hope we can also find this level at other tracks. I hope these three points are just the beginning."
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20, Chassis TF103/05
Classification: DNF +24 laps (from race winner)
Starting Position: 6th
"Obviously I am very annoyed. We have been so strong here all weekend and in the race we were looking good on a two-stop strategy and up into the points again. We think the retirement was caused by a gearbox problem, but this needs to be investigated and verified. I am so disappointed - we really need to stop losing points like this, although I am naturally pleased for Cristiano and the team scoring 6th place."
Ove Andersson - Team Principal
"I am very pleased with this result. It has been a long wait but we have been competitive here all weekend, so I think we deserve these three points. Cristiano drove a very strong race and was extremely close to taking fifth in the closing stages, but I will gladly take sixth place. I am sorry for Olivier, who has been on the pace all weekend and was again in a points position in the race. We have to look into the suspected gearbox problem on his car to see what exactly was wrong. All in all, it has been a positive weekend, but it is only one race of many."
T-Car: TF103/01 set up for Olivier Panis
Review: Panis and Da Matta finished Friday's free practice in 5th and 9th positions respectively and worked on the usual Friday task list of car set-up work and Michelin tyre evaluation. Both drivers reported some handling difficulties on their TF103s, despite the encouraging lap times. Panis completed just thirteen laps but set the fifth best time of 1m17.220s. Da Matta managed 26 tours to finish 9th (1m18.101s). Qualifying on Friday saw both TF103s in the top 6 with Da Matta fourth and Panis sixth after clean, competitive flying laps. The duo was 5th (Panis, 1m18.985s, 34 laps) and 11th (Da Matta, 1m19.342s, 44 laps) in Saturday's free practice after a generally trouble-free 90 minutes. Work was concentrated on Michelin tyre evaluation and race preparations. Panis put in a good second qualifying lap to score 6th place on the grid for the race, whilst understeer on his lap put Da Matta 13th.
Next test sessions: 6-9 May - Paul Ricard (Panis 6,7, Da Matta 8,9, Zonta 6-8)