Ralf Schumacher salvaged two points from an incident-packed race for Panasonic Toyota Racing at today's Belgian Grand Prix. In the first wet race of 2005, both Ralf and Jarno Trulli had run in the top three at different points of the race and both stood a chance of making the podium. But the race was interrupted by a safety car period following a crash involving Giancarlo Fisichella. In the end, bad timing with tyre choice at the pit stops left both drivers further down the order. Ralf went on to take 7th place while Jarno crashed out late on trying to avoid Monteiro's Jordan which had slowed suddenly. The result means that Toyota still holds 4th place in the constructors' championship with 80 points but the gap to the top three has lengthened to 10 points.
WATER GOOD EFFORT
Ralf Schumacher looked to have reaped the benefits of a perfectly timed pit stop just before the safety car period, but he was forced into an extra stop after switching to dry tyres too soon. He eventually took 7th place.
"That was a very tough race. The timing of the safety car period worked to our advantage early on and we were in good shape. We were quick in the conditions, everything was going well and the strategy was well defined. Then we just decided to go onto dry tyres too early. It was a very close decision, but we took it together and we got it wrong. Like everyone we expected the track to dry out a lot faster than it did. Instead the track was incredibly slow to dry out. It was amazing how slippery the circuit was, and I can't remember seeing a race like that. We came straight back in and that enabled us to score some points. The team did a great job but we just got one decision wrong."
Jarno Trulli started third and raced strongly up to the safety car period. But an ill-judged switch to dry tyres by the team left him needing an extra pit stop and demoted him down the field. He went off late on trying to avoid a slow car.
"Today I was definitely capable of fighting for a podium. The car was very quick, and we were able to run at the same pace as the McLarens early on. The car was handling well and we were very good on the tyres. But when the safety car came out we had to make a quick decision about which tyres to take. The track was still damp so I asked to stay on intermediates but the team decided to put me on dry tyres. It was a bit of a gamble and as it turned out it was not the right choice. When I came out I was barely able to maintain the pace of the safety car and we went to the back after we stopped again. I worked my way back up through the field but late on I was following Monteiro when he accidently hit the pit limiter button. I had no way of avoiding him and I hit him, losing my front wing and going off into the wall."
A strong weekend's work for Panasonic Toyota Racing ended in disappointment after a frustrating afternoon's work around Spa-Francorchamps.
Tsutomu Tomita – Team Principal
"It's obviously very disappointing to have lost out on two possible podiums today, but we took a challenging gamble which didn't pay off. Our pace in the first stint was very quick and we were able to compete with the top cars. At that point were heading for very good results but once the safety car came out we made the wrong decisions on the tyre changes so it didn't work out. The timing of the safety car worked well for Ralf, but we switched Jarno to dry tyres because we could see the line was drying slightly. We had to make a call but we made the wrong call. Then we made another tight call at Ralf's second pit stop and that cost him too. Nevertheless I am happy with the strategy decisions we took today. We are in Formula 1 to win and I prefer that we take a challenging gamble like that to make it to the top than settle for second best. At least today we gained valuable experience about how to race in wet conditions."