Panasonic Toyota Racing goes to the European Grand Prix this weekend in a positive frame of mind, following a successful three-day test at Jerez last week. The team tried a number of new parts on the TF102 with Mika Salo and it arrives at the Nürburgring - round nine of the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship - confident that it has overcome its handling problems of Canada two weeks ago.
The team has prior knowledge of the Nürburgring, having tested at the track last year with its TF101 test car. It will, however, have to master a new track layout this time around, due to changes at the first corner. It now comes back on itself in the shape of a V and has a new 560-metre infield section added to it, increasing the track's length from 4.556km to 5.144km.
Although the Panasonic Toyota Racing team comprises staff from 30 countries, this weekend marks a geographical home grand prix for the team because its Cologne factory is just 40 minutes' drive from the Nürburgring. Such is the proximity of the track that Panasonic Toyota Racing will have two extra factory-based days prior to the event compared to the foreign-based teams.
"We are now over half way in our first Formula 1 season and we have learned a lot. If I compare the team that we have now to the one that we took to Australia for the first race, the difference is unbelievable. We have progressed a long way. Having said that, we will continue to push. For this race we have some new parts for the car, so I hope that we will be more competitive than we were at the last race."
"We had a really good test in Jerez last week, where we learnt a lot about car set-up and about some new parts that we will be running at the Nürburgring. By the end of our three days there, the car was handling much better than at any other time this year. I am confident that we won't have similar problems to the ones that we had in Canada"
" I went to see Le Mans race last week, and it was good to catch up with a few of my sportscar friends there. Now, however, my focus is on the Nürburgring. It's quite a nice track to drive, although I'll reserve a final judgement until after I've driven the new layout. My engineers tell me that both Mika and Ryan made good progress in Jerez, which is very encouraging."
Mika Salo on the Nürburgring
"The Nürburgring is what I call a stadium track, similar to the A1-Ring and Hungary. It's not a track on which I particularly enjoy driving and it remains to be seen what effect the changes to the beginning of the lap will have on my point of view. The new first corner looks like a potential collision site because the cars will have to slow down more than was the case with the Esses that were there before. But it should make for another overtaking place, which is no bad thing. The 'Ring is a medium downforce track, with a few technical corners, but only one quick one, the fifth gear RTL left-hander."