Panasonic Toyota Racing has today announced that Jarno Trulli will race for the team in the last two races of the season, the Grands Prix of Japan and Brazil.
In Suzuka Trulli will race alongside Olivier Panis, who has already signed a contract to be the team's third driver next season. After the GP of Japan, Olivier will hand over his driving duties to team mate Ricardo Zonta, allowing him to race at his home Grand Prix in Brazil.
Ryan Briscoe will retain his role as third driver on Friday at the final two Grands Prix of this season.
Olivier Panis said: "I understand how important it is for the team to start working with Jarno as soon as possible. Toyota asked me to help this process and to leave Ricardo the possibility to race at his home Grand Prix in Brazil. In consideration of the positive work achieved with Toyota over the last two years, I am willing to give my team mate Ricardo this opportunity. This means that the Japanese Grand Prix will be my last Formula 1 race, but I look forward to the work which lies ahead of us in the next two years."
Ricardo Zonta said: "Although I am naturally disappointed not to be able to race at Toyota's home Grand Prix in Suzuka next weekend, I understand the importance of bringing Jarno into the race team when we have the opportunity to do so. On the other hand, I am excited that I will be able to participate in my own home grand prix in Brazil."
Jarno Trulli said: "It will be nice for me to be back in Japan because I have a lot of Japanese supporters and I'm sure they will give me a huge welcome. I am thankful to Olivier and Ricardo for making this possible. The Japanese Grand Prix weekend will help me put together a general impression of how things work at Toyota. Overall the experience will give me a head start with some input to the way I have to work over the winter."
Team Principal of Panasonic Toyota Racing, Tsutomu Tomita said: "After two satisfactory test sessions, we have decided to ask Jarno to drive for Panasonic Toyota Racing in the last two events of the season, starting with our home grand prix in Suzuka next weekend. Having the opportunity to bring Jarno into the race team for Japan and Brazil will be highly beneficial, as it will allow us to develop a solid working relationship with him in race conditions in anticipation of the 2005 season. We have come to a mutual agreement with Olivier to leave his seat as a race driver one race earlier than planned so we can already begin to actively work on our driver line-up for next year. Likewise we are sorry that we can not give Ricardo the chance to race in Japan. We thank both Olivier and Ricardo for showing great sportsmanship in this situation."
On 16 September, Panasonic Toyota Racing announced the final driver line-up for the 2005 season, with Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli as race drivers, Olivier Panis as third driver and Ricardo Zonta as test driver.