Formula 1 returns from a three-week break this weekend for round 13 of the 2003 season – the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Panasonic Toyota Racing team heads to the Hungaroring track eager to retain the sixth position it holds in the constructors' standings, the result of a strong German Grand Prix earlier in the month, where Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta scored a cumulative seven championship points, taking the team's overall tally to fourteen.
Team Review: Most members of the race team have taken the rare opportunity for a holiday in the period since the Hockenheim race, although development work has been ongoing at the Toyota Motorsport factory in Cologne. Meanwhile, Panis and Da Matta have been reconfirmed as Toyota's F1 race drivers for the 2004 season and have spent time in the run-up to the Hungarian GP with their families in France and Brazil respectively.
The Weekend Ahead: The debut F1 race to be held behind the then existing Iron Curtain took place at the Hungaroring in 1986. The inaugural event was attended by a staggering 200,000 fans and continues to be a popular venue for spectators, given that some 80% of the track is visible from any single point. In an effort to increase the overtaking possibilities at the notoriously narrow track, some modifications have been made for the 18th Hungarian GP this weekend, which see the lap length increase from 3.968km to 4.384km.
Ove Andersson, Team Principal
"Even though we find ourselves lying in 6th place in the championship with fourteen points, I am not going to get carried away. We have made vast improvements to the car and the team operations in the second half of this season, but our targets must remain realistic – to score more top ten qualifying results and to get more points in the remaining four races of the season. The low-speed characteristics of the Hungaroring may not suit our car as well as some other tracks, although I will reserve final judgement until Friday practice. One thing is for sure, the whole team is fully committed to our aim of scoring more top 8 results and in the process we will do our utmost to retain this sixth place and hopefully go one better."
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20
"After picking up four points in Hockenheim and a couple of weeks of holiday, I am ready to push hard in the final four rounds of this year's championship, starting this weekend in Hungary. The Hungaroring is not used mush during the year. As a result, it is very dusty on the first day and there is only one racing line. It is a low-speed track and particularly tough due to the lack of overtaking possibilities. I know the track has been modified for this year and I am looking forward to trying it on Friday. I hope the changes create some new passing points. The team has worked hard to get up to 6th in the championship, so my aim is to score more points to build on the recent achievements."
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21
"I have never even been to Hungary before, let alone raced at the Hungaroring. Many drivers have told me that it is impossible to overtake on this track, but I'm hoping the recent modifications will improve this. The track appears to be very tight and of the remaining four circuits on the calendar, I expect this one to be the most problematic for our TF103 race car. We will have to be more methodical and careful in our approach to this race because qualifying and strategy will be more critical than usual. Nevertheless, we will try our hardest to continue our ever-improving performance and get more points in the bag. Having spent some relaxing days in Brazil since Hockenheim, I feel fully refreshed to do just that."
2002 Flashback: A lacklustre weekend for the team began with the TF102s just 15th and 18th fastest in Friday practice. Lack of grip and downforce in Saturday qualifying resulted in the cars making up the ninth row of the grid for Sunday's race with car 24 in 17th spot and car 25 right behind in 18th. Reliability on race day was rewarded with the team's first two-car finish in seven races, although the difficulty in overtaking at the Hungaroring meant the TF102s were classified in 14th (car 25) and 15th (car 24).