Panasonic Toyota Racing got one TF103 to the chequered flag after an eventful, yet ultimately disappointing Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang today. Despite qualifying in 11th place, Cristiano da Matta had to start the race from the pitlane after a throttle problem on his warm-up lap forced him to use the T-car. The Brazilian crossed the finish line in 11th place. Frenchman Olivier Panis retired from the race on lap 13 with a fuel pressure problem after running strongly in the top 5 in the early stages.
Cristiano da Matta - Car Number 21, Chassis TF103/02 (T-car)
Classification: 11th, 55/56 laps completed
Starting Position: Pitlane (11th in second qualifying)
Best Lap: 1m38.156s
"It was a very tough race today. On the way to the grid I had a problem with the race car, so I had to jump in the T-car and start from the pitlane. We then had a problem with the fuel pressure running on a lighter fuel load, so I had to run the whole race on a full tank, which made overtaking impossible. It is very frustrating, but as the race started I had to forget about it and just do my best. Obviously, it is disappointing, as I feel we could have finished in the points today, but hopefully we can do just that in my first home F1 race in Brazil in two weeks' time."
Olivier Panis - Car Number 20, Chassis TF103/05
Classification: DNF, 12/56 laps completed
Starting Position: 10th
Best Lap: 1m38.176s
"I had a really good start in the race and was up into the top five, having a good battle early on with Barrichello. Things were looking really promising for us and the car was very competitive. I came in for my scheduled pit stop and we put in some fuel, but after three corners the fuel pressure suddenly went down and the engine died. The problem was very similar to what we experienced in Melbourne, but at the moment we don't know if it is exactly the same. Right now, I am quite angry and I am disappointed for the team, because everybody has done a very good job this weekend. The car still has a lot left to give and I am not the type of guy to give up, so we will get results soon."
Ove Andersson - Team Principal
"I am very disappointed because we were in a strong position to get very good results today, with a competitive car and a good strategy, but we have had the same problem as we had in Melbourne on both cars. We at least have a specific problem to deal with now, and simply have to get it fixed for the next race. Competitiveness is one thing, but we now have to focus on the most important thing, which is reliability."
Weather: Very hot with scattered clouds - Air 33-35, Track, 35-40, Humidity 49%
T-Car: TF103/02 set up for Olivier Panis, modified and used by Da Matta in the race.
Review: Friday saw set-up problems on both TF103s hinder the first qualifying hour. Da Matta set the 11th fastest time on his first visit to the Sepang track. Panis was 14th. Overnight set-up changes to the TF103s resulted in both drivers being competitive in Saturday morning free practice. Da Matta finished in P5, but Panis was P12 after an engine failure limited running. Da Matta had to use the T-car in second qualifying after a clutch problem in the fifteen-minute warm-up. Panis qualified in the top ten for the second time in just two races in 10th with Da Matta just 0.003 seconds back in 11th.
Next test sessions:
26-28 March, Barcelona, Spain (26-27 Da Matta, 28 Panis)
26-28 March, Circuit Paul Ricard, France (Zonta all days)
4-6 April Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos