Panasonic Toyota Racing moves to Canada this week for round 8 of this year's championship, the halfway point of the season. Olivier Panis has contested 8 Canadian GPs to date with a best result of fourth in 1995, whilst Cristiano da Matta was polesitter and runner-up in the Montreal CART race in 2002. Consequently both drivers bring valuable experience with them.
Team Review: The team used its full complement of drivers at concurrent test sessions in Silverstone and Monza last week. In the UK, Cristiano da Matta and Ricardo Zonta worked on aero and tyre tests, as well as general set-up and specific set-up work for July's British GP. Da Matta topped the timesheets on day two. Zonta additionally opened the three-day Monza test on Tuesday. Olivier Panis drove the Italian GP track on the final two days, successfully testing a new spec RVX-03 engine, which the team is using this weekend.
The Weekend Ahead: The Canadian GP moved to Montreal in 1978 after 8 previous races shared between Mosport Park (6) and Mont-Tremblant (2). Renamed in memory of national hero Gilles Villeneuve in 1982, the 4.361-km Montreal track was built around the site originally developed for the world trade fair Expo 67 and comprises permanent road track and public street. The track has some kerbs, which cars need to ride well to set a good lap time, and also offers some overtaking possibilities, particularly if cars attain a good speed along the long straights.
Ove Andersson, Team Principal
"We had a productive three-days in Silverstone and Monza last week, doing some specific tests in preparation for Montreal. With all drivers on hand, we managed almost 400 laps and we had some quite promising results. The Canadian circuit demands a lot from the engine, so we are using a new and improved engine specification this weekend. It is always difficult to predict how we will go at races, but I think the decisive factor will once again be trying to find the optimum set-up on the TF103s in the limited time we have available during Friday morning practice. Luckily, both Olivier and Cristiano have prior experience of the track and I am sure this will be a big help to us in Montreal."
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20
"I think Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of the best tracks on the calendar. I really like the place and the people. I feel very confident driving the circuit and we normally have some very fun races. Cars need a good braking stability and good traction to exit the chicanes quickly, as well as having a good change of direction, so we can put the throttle on as early as possible. It is also an engine circuit so I am looking forward to using our new spec RVX-03 engine, which felt very good in testing last week."
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21
"I have previous racing experience at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, having driven there at last year's CART event where I was runner-up, so I will not lose any time learning the track during Friday morning's one-hour practice session. The circuit is enjoyable to drive with some good chances to overtake, but it is particularly hard on the brakes and the engine. We are running a new spec engine this weekend, which I am sure will be beneficial to us. Overall, I am in a quite optimistic frame of mind, and although it could be a tough weekend, I'm looking forward to it."
2002 Flashback: The team registered the 6th best time in Friday practice last year, although car 25 suffered an oil leak to finish down in 20th. The TF102s did not handle well over the kerbs in Saturday qualifying and were only 18th and 20th on the grid. Neither TF102 finished the 70-lap race after car 24 retired with a brake problem and car 25 with electronics malfunction, which caused the car to spin and stall on lap 45.