Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta were 5th and 10th fastest respectively in today's first qualifying session for the French Grand Prix. Improving track conditions during the session favoured the later runners, particularly those on slicks, however both Panasonic Toyota Racing drivers got the best out of the TF103s and hope to benefit from going out 11th (Da Matta) and 16th (Panis) in tomorrow's all-important final qualifying session.
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20, Chassis TF103/05
Session Classification: 5th
Lap Time: 1m24.176s +3.358s from pole
Starting position: 16th
"It is important for me to perform well in front of my home crowd and I am pleased with the lap today. We decided to go out on intermediate tyres given the changing wet-dry conditions throughout the session, but I realised by the first corner that we should have opted for slicks. It was very difficult to predict, though, because the track improved so quickly. All in all, we did a very good job for the first day and we are in a strong position for tomorrow's qualifying."
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21, Chassis TF103/07
Session Classification: 10th
Lap Time: 1m26.975s +6.158s from pole
Starting Position: 13th
"A pretty inconclusive session with the ever-changing track conditions we had. In the circumstances, my lap was not too bad, and I think that given my limited knowledge of this track, I got the best out of the car. We went out on intermediate tyres, which I think was the right thing to do, although the track was much drier than I expected it to be. I'm satisfied with the outcome of the session, but we will have to wait and see what happens tomorrow, especially if it is completely dry."
Ange Pasquali - Team Manager
"We are happy with our qualifying performance today. It would have been a gamble to send Olivier out on slick tyres, so we sent him out on intermediates, but the track was drying out so quickly, it was a difficult call. We are also pleased with Cristiano's position because when he went out it was at the limit between heavy-wet and shallow-wet. Everybody in the pit lane was cheering the one-two of the Minardi's today and I think this is a typical example of what the new regulations can bring, which is fantastic for the sport. Overall, it was a positive day for Panasonic Toyota Racing today. Everyone has worked well and we are looking forward to more of the same tomorrow."
Weather: Cloudy but dry. Wet track, drying throughout the session.
T-Car: TF103/04 set up for Olivier Panis. Spare Chassis: TF103/02.
Free Practice Review: A wet start to the weekend meant little productive running for qualifying. Panis was 8th (1m28.773s) after 20 laps of the new layout Circuit de Nevers-Magny-Cours. Da Matta was 16th (1m30.791s) completing 25 tours of the track.