Only three-thousandths-of-a-second separated Panasonic Toyota Racing drivers Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta in today's grid-determining qualifying session in Sepang. Panis recorded his and the team's second consecutive top-ten grid position of the season, qualifying his TF103 in 10th. A clutch problem forced Da Matta to switch to the T-car for qualifying, and the Brazilian did a superb job to set the eleventh fastest time.
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20, Chassis TF103/05
Session Classification: 10th Lap Time: 1m38.094 (+1.050s from pole) Starting position: 7th
"Definitely, I feel that we have improved the car a lot for today. We struggled with the set-up in free practice yesterday, so we worked a lot overnight and made some real improvements. As a result, we have been a little bit more competitive, and I think we have worked really hard this morning to choose the best strategy for tomorrow's race. Overall I am quite positive and happy with tenth on the grid."
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21, Chassis TF103/04 (T-car) Session Classification: 11th Lap Time: 1m38.097s (+1.053s from pole) Starting Position: 10th
"It was unfortunate that we had to change to the spare car for qualifying today. The car still performed well, but I didn't have everything 100% tuned the way I wanted. Considering that I changed cars and that it's my first Malaysian GP, I am happy with eleventh place, but it could have been even better. The car has been running well today and if we look at the big picture, I think we are looking in pretty good shape."
Keizo Takahashi - General Manager, Car Design and Development "In the morning practice session, we had some problems on Olivier's car but the overall set up of both cars was much better than yesterday. We are very satisfied with the result for both drivers in this qualifying session. Okay, it could have been a bit better, but we set regular top ten qualifying results as one of our targets for this season, which we achieved today and tomorrow we have the opportunity to realise the second of these aims, namely to win some world championship points."
Weather: Very hot with strong sunshine
Temperatures: Air 33-35, Track 37-52, Average humidity 47%
T-car: TF103/04 set-up for and used by Cristiano da Matta.
Review: Yesterday, saw set-up problems on both TF103s hinder the free practice hour and first qualifying session. Da Matta set the 11th fastest qualifying time on his first visit to Sepang. Panis was 14th, but suffered with poor grip levels. Overnight set-up changes to the TF103s resulted in both drivers being competitive in Saturday morning free practice. Da Matta finished the session in P5 (1m37.093s), whilst Olivier Panis's car suffered an engine failure, placing the Frenchman in P12 overall (1m37.623).