Strong performances from Panasonic Toyota Racing drivers Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta all weekend were not rewarded in Melbourne today, as neither driver finished the 2003 Australian Grand Prix. After an excellent qualifying yesterday, Olivier Panis was regularly running in a points-scoring position, but a fuel pressure problem forced him out of the race on lap 32. Starting from 16th on the grid, Cristiano da Matta was making good progress through the field, but retired on lap 7, braking too late into turn 3.
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20
Classification: DNF, 32/58 laps completed, +26 laps (from winner)
Starting Position: 5th
"We have been having a problem with the fuel pressure sometimes during the weekend and it came back during the race today. We made a good decision to start the race on slick tyres and it is a real shame because we were going so well. I am sure we missed out on a podium today, but I want to remain positive. The car felt really good and I think the whole team has done a good job and we have shown our potential this weekend."
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21
Classification: DNF, 7/58 laps completed, +51 laps (from winner)
Starting Position: 16th
"I started the race on slick tyres when the track was still wet in places, so it was difficult to begin with but as the track dried I was making good progress and catching the guys in front of me. As I was approaching turn 3, I had two cars to the left of me, so I couldn't see the 100-metre braking marker, and when I saw the 50-metre it was too late. It was just a silly mistake. The race was good fun while it lasted, but it was nowhere near long enough for me. We have been really competitive this weekend and I know the car is quick, so I am just looking forward to the next race."
Ove Andersson - Team Principal
"I am disappointed but I am not concerned because I think the TF103 car has shown really good potential. We can look forward now with careful confidence for the upcoming races. I am sorry for both Olivier and Cristiano for what has happened today, but that is racing and we have to live with that. They have been around long enough in racing to know that!"
Weather: Rain until 13.00. Track wet to start, but drying out.
T-Car: TF103/04 set up for Olivier Panis
Review: Olivier Panis finished Friday's one-hour practice session in 13th, completing 12 laps of the track. 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. Olivier Panis secured the team's highest ever qualifying result on Saturday afternoon scoring the 5th fastest time. Cristiano da Matta - running a different strategy - qualified for his debut F1 race in 16th.
Next test session: 12-15 March - Jerez, Spain (12-13 Da Matta, 14-15 Panis) Next race: 21-23 March – Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang Circuit