Panasonic Toyota Racing: GP of Europe - Preview
Grand Prix of Europe - Selected Quotes
"We are heading to the European Grand Prix on the back of our successful points-scoring Monaco race, but I think it is unlikely that we will be able to repeat that performance this weekend. The Nürburgring is another maximum downforce, slow-medium speed circuit, which on paper should not suit us, so we simply have to keep pushing to extract the most from our TF104 race car. With our factory just down the road in Cologne, the Nürburgring is effectively a home Grand Prix for Panasonic Toyota Racing, so we will have the additional support of all the team employees watching from the grandstands, which will be very welcome. I just hope we can give them all something to cheer about."
Olivier Panis - Car Number 17
"We don't have much time to reflect on the four championship points that we scored last weekend in Monaco as our thoughts have already turned to the European Grand Prix weekend at the Nürburgring. We had a highly competitive package at this race last year, and I was fastest in two of the practice sessions, but in the end we were unable to turn that performance into points. I think this weekend's race will be much tougher, but we are working in the right direction and everyone wants to do well at the Nürburgring, a local race to everyone in the team in Cologne."
Ricardo Zonta - Car Number 38
"I last raced at the Nürburgring back in 2000 before the recent changes to the first corner, so I will have to learn the new infield section on Friday morning. I don't see that as a big problem and I am looking forward to again assisting the team with tyre selection and car set-up in free practice. Michelin did a very good job for us in Monaco, and I believe we are making small steps ahead in all areas in terms of the car's performance. Because we don't have testing this week, most of the Nürburgring preparations were done at Paul Ricard before the Monaco GP. After our good result at the last race, I hope we can continue that trend in Nürburgring in front of the team's home crowd, although I think we will again be looking at battling with Jaguar, Sauber and McLaren-Mercedes for the midfield positions."
Tsutomu Tomita - Team Principal
"The four points we scored at Monaco were very good news for the whole Toyota family, fans, and sponsors around the world, but we know that we still need further improvements and developments to catch the teams in front of us. The Nürburgring circuit is not far from our factory in Cologne and most of our employees will go to the track to support their colleagues. I said prior to the last race that Monaco is not one of the circuits that suit our TF104s, but we demonstrated our reliability and a good performance in the race, setting the eighth and ninth fastest race laps. With our usual strong motivation, we will keep pushing ourselves at the Nürburgring this weekend."
Logistics of Back-to-Back Races
Panasonic Toyota Racing's General Manager F1 Operations Richard Cregan explains the intricacies of Monaco logistics, and how the team prepares this season's three back-to-back races.
What is the biggest logistical challenge at Monaco?
"Space is the biggest enemy that all teams have in Monaco. Upon arrival, it takes basically a full day to manoeuvre the trucks into the Monaco paddock. Formula One Management (FOM) makes a plan and drawing for every paddock, where everything should go, so the Monaco paddock is no more precise than anywhere else, it is just the space limitation. FOM's planning is highly valuable because without it, there would be chaos. The main issues are the lack of space and that every truck has to be crammed in much tighter."
What are the biggest advantages of the new pit facilities?
"The main difference between Monaco 2003 and this year has been the excellent new pit facilities and the pitlane itself. The pitlane before was very narrow and we only had just enough space to do a pitstop. The fast lane was passing dangerously close to the mechanics. This year, we have a pit building that is about the same size as somewhere like Imola. We have two spare cars at Monaco, one for Olivier and one for Cristiano, because the possibility of damaging a car is much greater, so there is now plenty of space for all four cars. We also have an area upstairs for the engineers to work and to store equipment. At the back of the garage, there is also space for the Michelin tyres and the pitwalls. The difference is enormous and a transformation from one of the most difficult tracks to work at to actually better than some existing facilities."
Why was it so much better compared to previous years?
"In the past, without these new facilities, most of the teams were located in a car park at the top of a hill about 20 minutes walk from the pitlane. We had to transport the cars from the car park to the pitlane before each session and then back again after the session. Only the top 4 teams in the championship could work from the paddock area, and that was still ten minutes from where the cars needed to be for a session. Now all teams have their technical trucks in the paddock and their car equipment directly in the pitlane. Now, it is possible to leave everything in one place, rather than continuously moving between the separate locations."
The European Grand Prix weekend begins just three days after Panasonic Toyota Racing's four-point success in Monaco. How does the team cope with the demands of back-to-back races?
"Planning for the Monaco and European Grands Prix began months ago to ensure a smooth transition between the two races in the short space of time that we have. We have to meticulously prepare the transportation of all team vehicles, technical trucks, support trucks and motorhomes from the confines of Monaco to the Nürburgring in only a couple of days."
What are the biggest issues that a team faces when departing Monaco?
"The biggest issue is to get all the trucks out of Monaco by Sunday night, which is when we have our deadline to leave. The trucks will all go to a parking place in Nice on Sunday night and will then be picked up by the drivers on Monday morning to come back to Germany. The actual departure from the track is out of our hands. Everything has to leave in a strict order, which is determined by the way the paddock is laid out. The other issue is the traffic around Monaco, but by the time the equipment is packed into the units, the traffic is much reduced. FOM organise a police convoy, so it normally runs problem-free."
Toyota's factory is not far from Nürburgring, so would the trucks return there before the race?
"For any back-to-back race, we obviously have to strip down and rebuild the cars in a shorter period of time. On this occasion, we have chosen to rebuild them on site at the Nürburgring. Bringing them back to the factory in Cologne, even though it is only 90 minutes drive away from the track, does not make sense. By the time, we bring them back, offload them, rebuild the cars and put them back on the truck again, we would actually save time by going directly to the Nürburgring. We have a rebuild kit ready and waiting at the track for each car, so work can begin as soon as the trucks arrive."
Monaco-Nürburgring is only the first of three back-to-back situations this season. At the beginning of June there is Canada and the USA, so how would your approach differ for those races?
"It would be the same situation for all back-to-back races of the season, whether it is Canada and Indianapolis or Magny-Cours and Silverstone. It is simply a question of working out the movements carefully. Basically what we will do between Canada and the US races is to keep everybody together. We will fly personnel on a charter flight from Montreal to Indy on Monday. The freight will be transported for arrival on Tuesday and then we would do exactly the same procedure as we do for the Nürburgring. We would build up the garage as soon as possible and then rebuild the cars from Wednesday."
What benefits will you have for back-to-back races?
"The real benefit we have for this first back-to-back of the season is the proximity of the track to the factory in Cologne. At the Nürburgring race, it is easy to get spare parts down from Cologne, but at overseas events, we do not have that luxury. The most important difference for overseas races is to make absolutely sure you have everything we need. The same as the first intercontinental races in Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain, just that the turnover time is much tighter. I actually like the back-to-backs, because it keeps everybody in the team on their toes and busy. One thing that I repeat to the team at each race is attention to detail - these races ensure that everybody is concentrated on the small details."