Panasonic Toyota Racing has arrived in Australia for its first ever grand prix. The 60 members of its race team, plus three TF102 cars - one for each of the drivers plus a spare - arrived in Melbourne last Sunday amid a huge welcome from local...
Panasonic Toyota Racing has arrived in Australia for its first ever grand prix. The 60 members of its race team, plus three TF102 cars - one for each of the drivers plus a spare - arrived in Melbourne last Sunday amid a huge welcome from local media and temperatures of 26 degrees.
The journey to the race, the first of the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship, has been a long one for the team. Since the green light was given to Toyota's F1 project in 1999, Toyota Motorsport GmbH in Cologne has increased the size of its factory to over 30,000 square metres and currently employs around 550 people from 30 different nationalities. As well as this, the team undertook an intensive test programme in 2001, completing more than 20,000 kilometres with a test chassis, the TF101, on 11 different circuits.
Both Panasonic Toyota Racing drivers, Mika Salo and Allan McNish, and team boss Ove Andersson flew to Australia via Japan, where they attended a the annual Toyota motorsports press conference in Tokyo last Friday. Then, once in Melbourne, both Mika and Allan as well as test driver, Australian Ryan Briscoe, took the opportunity to get in contact with employes at local Toyota plants.
"This will be a very emotional weekend for me. Two years ago, our first grand prix seemed so far off, yet here we are. So much work has already been done, but there is still a lot more to do. We are a very young team, so we will need time to learn to work together. People keep asking me about my expectations for this year - well, I don't have any. In Melbourne it is important that we qualify and then try to finish the race with both cars."
"I came to this race last year as a spectator and I didn,t enjoy it too much. I hated seeing the other drivers out on the track and not being able to join them. Well, this year I can! This weekend will be a mega exciting moment for everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing because, ever since I signed for Toyota in August 2000, this is what we have been working towards. Testing has gone quite well for us, but we will only know where we are after qualifying on Saturday. I've finished in the top six (on the track) every time I've raced at Albert Park, but I think it's a bit unrealistic to think we'll do that this time. Our aim must be just to finish."
"At last! I'm now on the verge of making my grand prix debut. I cannot wait. I've already jogged around the track in Albert Park and it seems like a good challenge, with a mix of fast and slow corners. This is a great weekend for everyone in the team and what people don't realise is that I have been with Toyota for a number of years, first at Le Mans and now in F1. My main goal here is to finish the race and to learn from that experience."
Mika Salo on the Australian Grand Prix:
"Melbourne is a great place to start the season. The weather's great and the people are very friendly. The 3.295-mile Albert Park track is not the most challenging that we race on during the year, but it's made more interesting by the fact that no-one can test there. It's also the first race of the season, so people are still trying to sort out their cars. There are one or two quick corners, as well as a host of tricky chicanes that combine to make it quite a technical circuit. I can't wait to get started!"