On its first taste of the new qualifying system at Albert Park in Melbourne today, Panasonic Toyota Racing achieved its first top ten qualifying position of the year with French driver Olivier Panis putting his TF103 in 8th place on the timesheets. Brazilian Cristiano da Matta only had one hour of free practice this morning in which to learn the track and took 11th place.
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20
Session Classification: 8th
Lap Time: 1m27.352s, +0.980s from pole
Starting position: 12th
"We had some problems in free practice this morning, so we changed the set-up of the car a lot and I was quite pleased with the performance of the car in the session; it is very promising. I had some understeer on the first corner of my fast lap, which lost me some time, but I am very happy for the team that we see this potential. We now have a lot of work to do tonight before the practice and qualifying tomorrow."
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21
Session Classification: 11th
Lap Time: 1m27.478s, +1.106s from pole
Starting Position: 20th
"Today has been a difficult day for me, because this was my first time on the track and I only had 24 laps this morning to familiarise myself with everything. I am sure like every driver, I feel like I could have done better, but I am happy with the result and more encouraged by the overall potential of the car and the team."
Gustav Brunner - Chief Designer
"To be 8th and 11th in the opening session of the weekend is quite a good result for us. We have had no doubts about the clear ability of our drivers, Olivier and Cristiano, and they did not let us down today. Both did a good, solid job and we remain confident and hopeful for the rest of the weekend. Particularly promising was the fact that Olivier and Cristiano set the best and third best times in the middle sector."
Weather: Hot and sunny, but some cloud
Temperatures: Air 23-25ºC, Track 31-34ºC, Average humidity 39%
Free Practice Review:
Olivier Panis finished this morning's one-hour free practice session in 13th position, completing 12 laps of the track. The Frenchman's session was cut short due to a fuel pump problem. On his first visit to Albert Park, Cristiano da Matta was 15th fastest. The Brazilian covered 24 laps, getting to know the track.
The usual two Saturday free practice sessions will be followed by the second of this weekend's qualifying sessions to determine the grid for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix. Da Matta is 10th in the running order for the qualifying runs and will be the first Panasonic Toyota Racing driver to complete his sole flying lap. Panis will be 13th in the running sequence.