Cristiano da Matta crossed the finish line in tenth place in today's Austrian Grand Prix at the A1-Ring, whilst team-mate Olivier Panis retired on lap 6 after something on the track pierced his barge board and caused suspension damage and a front tyre puncture. Da Matta almost didn't start the race at all after a launch control problem caused his engine to stall and led to the start being aborted. From the back of the grid at the restart, Da Matta drove a solid race to bring his TF103 home for the fifth time in six races. Overall, a hugely disappointing weekend for the Panasonic Toyota Racing team, who never recovered from initial set-up problems in Friday's free practice hour.
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21, Chassis TF103/07
Classification: 10th +1 lap (from race winner)
Starting Position: 13th
"At the start, I pressed the launch button as I normally do and the car just stalled. There was something wrong with the launch electronics. For the restart and the pit stops, we decided not to risk it and instead did manual starts. I would say that the weekend is below the expectations I had, but considering the difficulties in practice on Friday and Saturday, I think tenth place is more or less the best we could do today. Things were not made easier starting from the back of the grid. The tricky part has come from us not finding a proper set-up on the car for this circuit, so we have to learn from this and make it better for Monaco."
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20, Chassis TF103/05
Classification: DNF +63 laps (from race winner)
Starting Position: 11th
"I am not really sure what happened. We took advantage of the safety car period at the very beginning to refuel the car, and effectively switch to a one-stop race. Shortly after I rejoined the track, I felt something hit the barge board and there was a puncture on the front left tyre. Basically I turned in and the car simply continued straight on and I had to stop. I thought that the suspension was also affected and when the guys checked the car back in the garage, they found some damage to the front suspension. It is another shame and it has not been a fantastic weekend for us, so we have to keep motivated and think about the next race in Monaco in two weeks."
Ove Andersson - Team Principal
"I am very disappointed. This whole weekend we have not found a good set-up on the car. We struggled badly on Friday morning and have spent the rest of the weekend trying to catch up. Cristiano did well to get tenth after the problem at the start with his launch system put him at the back of the grid. As for Olivier, I just cannot believe how one man can have such bad luck. The only thing we can do is to learn from this weekend and look to improve for the next race, but I am done with making predictions, so I am not going to give a Monaco forecast."
T-Car: TF103/04 set up for Olivier Panis
Review: The team struggled in Friday's free practice with a poor set-up, which resulted in imbalance and bad handling on both TF103s. Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis only managed the 17th and 18th fastest times in the one-hour session completing 28 and 21 laps respectively. The team made some improvements to the car on Saturday. Panis clocked the 13th best time (1m10.076s) over 39 laps with Da Matta 16th fastest (1m10.370s). Clean flying laps in second qualifying session resulted in 11th place on the grid for Panis and 13th for Da Matta.