Panasonic Toyota Racing today scored its highest ever qualifying position for a Formula 1 race, when Olivier Panis put his TF103 car fifth on the grid for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne. Cristiano da Matta was running a different strategy to his French team-mate and the Brazilian will line up in 16th place for his debut F1 race.
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20
Session Classification: 5th
Lap Time: 1m28.288 (+1.115s from pole)
Starting position: 13th
"I am really happy about the performance of the car and its nice to be up the front end of the grid in my race debut for the team. I think we did a good job this morning to compare the Michelin tyres and I think we made a good choice. Now we have to wait until tomorrow to see how we go in the race. Everybody worked really hard and at the end of the day this was a positive qualifying, so I would like to thank every single member of the team here and in Cologne."
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21
Session Classification: 16th
Lap Time: 1m29.538s (+2.365s from pole)
Starting Position: 10th
"We had a problem with the clutch in the session before, which meant I couldn't do the warm-up. That was not the perfect situation, but the team did a fantastic job to fix the problem in time for my qualifying lap. I was expecting a clear run for my single lap, so I was surprised to see a car right in front of me. Psychologically it slows you down a little bit. Anyway, both Olivier and myself were on different strategies and I still think we can challenge for points tomorrow."
Keizo Takahashi - General Manager, Car Design and Development "A very satisfying result for the entire Panasonic Toyota Racing team. Olivier made a good lap so we are very happy and it is our best qualifying result in only the first race of our second season in F1. We made a different strategy for both drivers today, and Cristiano also did a good job in difficult circumstances. The race will certainly be interesting tomorrow."
Weather: Some cloud and sunny spells, generally hot
Temperatures: Air 18-20ºC, Track 27-30ºC, Average humidity 51%
T-car: TF103/04 set-up for Olivier Panis
Olivier Panis finished Friday's one-hour practice session in 13th, completing 12 laps of the track, although his session was cut short due to a fuel pump problem. On his first visit to Albert Park, Cristiano da Matta was 15th. He covered 24 laps, getting to know the track. In the first ever one-shot qualifying, Panis went 8th fastest, whilst Da Matta impressed in 11th. Saturday morning's practice sessions saw Da Matta in 10th and Panis in 11th, with both drivers working on race set-up and tyre evaluation. Both drivers were relatively content, although oversteer caused the Brazilian's TF103 to spin at turn 7 twenty minutes before the end of the session.