Buoyed from its second points finish of the season in Canada a fortnight ago, the Panasonic Toyota Racing team is hoping for a continuation of the trend at the Nürburgring this weekend. The team's Cologne factory is a mere forty-five minutes from the track, so the European GP - round nine of the championship - is somewhat of a home race for the team.
Team Review: Da Matta was on track in Jerez last week for a three-day test working on Michelin tyre evaluation and testing aero parts for the Nürburgring. The Brazilian totalled 233 laps. Third driver Ricardo Zonta opened a parallel test at Paul Ricard on Tuesday and Wednesday also working with Michelin. Panis concluded the test on Thursday testing a new generation of RVX-03 engine, which the team will use later in the season.
The Weekend Ahead: The Nürburgring is one of two German tracks on the F1 calendar. Situated in the Eifel region, some 70 kilometres from Cologne, the maximum downforce track comprises a variety of low-medium speed corners and straights requiring good mechanical grip and traction. The circuit layout was revised in 2002 to notably change the first corner with the addition of a 560-metre infield section, increasing the overall length of the track from 4.56-km to 5.14-km – a long way short of the legendary 23-km Nordschleife, on which 22 F1 races were run between 1951 and 1976.
Ove Andersson, Team Principal
"After the opening eight races of the season, I have to admit I have mixed feelings about our performance and results so far. Yes, I am disappointed that we have not been able to score more than four championship points, but we have demonstrated that we have a strong package with our excellent drivers, car and team. This was clear at the last race in Canada, and now we have to continue in this way for the remaining races. Nürburgring is our home race, with our factory just down the road in Cologne, so it would be a special feeling to get a solid result in front of our colleagues, who will be watching us from the grandstands. There is half a season still to go and I am certain there are more top 10 grid slots and championship points to come for us in 2003, hopefully starting this weekend."
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20
"Although the Nürburgring is not one of my favourite tracks on the calendar, there are some technical sections that are satisfying to get right. The weather can often be a problem, because it is normally quite cold in the Eifel and then you need to opt for a soft balance on the car to warm up the tyres. You cannot afford to have understeer because it destroys the tyres too quickly. Overtaking is difficult at the Nürburgring, so qualifying will be important. I was pleased to open my points account in Canada, and we should expect more solid finishes as the rest of the season unfolds, although I don't want to make any concrete predictions for this weekend."
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21
"We had a busy time in Jerez last week working closely with Michelin to find good tyres for the Nürburgring race. We completed a lot of mileage and collected some very useful information. I raced at the Nürburgring in 1996 in F3000, but the track has changed quite a bit since then, especially with last year's modification to the first corner, so I have to relearn the track on Friday. After frustratingly retiring from the Canadian Grand Prix from a points-scoring position with just a few laps to go, I am determined to do well this weekend – especially for everyone from the factory who will be there cheering us on!"
2002 Flashback: Friday practice saw a trouble-free start to the weekend for the team with TF102s in 9th and 18th with drivers working on different programmes. Saturday resulted in a fifth top 10 grid slot with the team claiming 10th and 13th. Race day was not favourable with one TF102 finishing the 60-lap event down in 14th place and the other retiring 9 laps from the end after suffering handling problems throughout the race.