A incident-filled Brazilian Grand Prix ended prematurely at Interlagos today with Panasonic Toyota Racing driver Cristiano da Matta classified in 10th position after the race was red-flagged after 54 of the scheduled 71 laps. The Brazilian started strongly in the wet, but his TF103 car struggled as the track began to dry out, resulting in three pit stops as the team tried to pinpoint the problem. The team took advantage of a safety car period to bring Olivier Panis in on the opening lap to refuel his TF103, but the Frenchman was forced out of the race on lap 17 after another car collided with him.
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21, Chassis TF103/02
Classification: 10th +1 lap (from race winner)
Starting Position: 18th
"When we had full wet weather conditions, we were in reasonable shape and our pit-stop strategy got me as high as fourth when the safety car was deployed for the second time. When the track started to dry out things got much worse and I picked up really bad oversteer. We have to look into the problem. We thought it was to do with the tyre pressures, but the car was slow on high and low tyre pressures in the drying conditions. Not the result I wanted today in front of my fans, but we are now heading into the European season, where I hope we can get good results."
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20, Chassis TF103/05
Classification: DNF +36 laps (from race winner)
Starting Position: 15th
"With the race starting under the safety car due to the wet conditions, we took advantage of this to refuel the car and we had a good strategy. Unfortunately it was a bit difficult to drive the car with a full tank. I had some lack of grip but it would not have been so hard to continue. I felt a big impact from the rear of my car and I didn't really understand what had happened until Ralph Firman spoke with me and explained he had hit me. Obviously I am disappointed with the outcome, but the team has worked really hard all weekend, so I want to thank them and it is important for us not to give up. I am also very sorry for Fernando after his crash - I hope he is okay."
Ove Andersson - Team Principal
"I think it was a very, very difficult race for all the drivers out there today and there were too many accidents. Olivier had a bit of bad luck at the beginning, involved in an incident with Firman. With Cristiano, we don't understand why his car was not competitive and we will look into the data and investigate. We have to look forward to the next race and the start of the European season. Sooner or later, good results have to come our way."
T-Car: TF103/01 set up for Cristiano da Matta
Review: Heavy rain resulted
in an unproductive Friday free practice session. After just 5 laps in the one-hour session, Olivier Panis was classified in 7th with a best time of 1m31.518s. Cristiano da Matta completed 6 laps. His fastest time of 1m31.548s placed him 8th. In first qualifying, Panis took 6th spot on a drying Interlagos track and Da Matta claimed 11th place. In the Sao Paulo sunshine on Saturday morning, the team took its debut P1 in a timed F1 session with Olivier Panis setting a best time of 1m13.457s. A driver error in Saturday qualifying put Panis back in 15th place, and handling trouble on Da Matta's car saw the Brazilian start his home GP in 18th.
Next test sessions: 8-11 April, Paul Ricard: Panis 8-9, Da Matta 10-11, Zonta 8-10 Next race: 18-20 April, San Marino Grand Prix, Imola