Panasonic Toyota Racing has finished off the season in style with a podium finish at today's Chinese Grand Prix. Ralf Schumacher took third place after a well-timed pit stop that coincided with the first safety car period. He ran as high as second for long periods and battled hard to his second podium of 2005. Jarno Trulli was less fortunate with the timing of the safety cars and dropped down the field, but he still pushed hard on his way to 15th place. The six points mean that Toyota ends its best ever season by consolidating its 4th place in the constructors' championship with 88 points.
Ralf Schumacher's podium was his 14th points finish of 2005 and enough for 6th place in the drivers' championship.
"That was a great way to cap off an excellent first season with Toyota, especially coming after a pretty hard weekend. The car was really difficult to handle in qualifying and at the beginning of the race but the first safety car came out at just the right time for me. I think I was due a bit of luck after what happened at last week's Japanese Grand Prix and this time it paid off. The team did a good strategy and after the second safety car period I was in second. At that point the handling was incredible and I was almost able to keep up with Alonso and pull out the gap I needed. The pit stops were excellent today and I'd like to pass on a big thank you to all the team. I've scored points in 14 races out of 19 this year and I look forward to pushing even further up the grid next season."
SHANGHAI NO SILVER LINING
Jarno Trulli had a difficult end to his fine season, coming home 15th after falling foul of the safety car period.
"That was a difficult afternoon and things just didn't work out for me. I've found the car hard to handle all weekend. The balance was not too bad in the first stint, but after ten laps I felt a vibration from the front left tyre. Then the first safety car period came at just the wrong time – just after I had made my first pit stop – and that ruined my race. We tried to recover by filling up to the end at the second safety car but by then I was well down the field and I eventually had to come in to change my front left tyre. Still, it has been a great season so thanks to all the team. We missed out on a few podiums and a lot of points, but we showed a strong performance so I look forward to more success in 2006."
OWED TO COLOGNE
Ralf Schumacher's 3rd place finish rounds off the best season in Panasonic Toyota Racing's F1 history.
Tsutomu Tomita – Team Principal
"It has been a very good year for us and to finish on the podium is a fine way to finish it off. So I would like to offer my thanks to everyone on the race team and at Cologne as well as everyone at TMC in Japan and all our partners. Thanks to both drivers for a great season. Jarno has been unfortunate several times and again today he didn't have much luck. He pitted the lap before the safety car and it ruined his race when he wasn't waved past. He had to make a late stop because of a bad tyre problem but I'm grateful to him for bringing the car home. Ralf was unlucky with the safety car at Suzuka but today went much better. We made efficient use of the pit stop and kept him out on the second safety car period hoping that traffic would hold up the field, which worked out perfectly. Our fifth podium is a great end to a great year. We are not yet able to compete with the top teams so we need harder development to overtake them. But we already have some excellent data from the car and this podium will provide excellent motivation over the winter."
Mike Gascoyne – Technical Director Chassis "This podium is a fitting tribute to all the year's hard work by everyone both on the race team and back in Cologne. To come here with the B car and go away with a result like that is excellent so a big thank you to everyone involved."