CHAMPCAR/CART: Da Matta happy with Formula One test

CART driver Cristiano da Matta missed the Indianapolis 500 in favour of Formula One testing with Toyota on the 17th May and was more than happy to do so. Da Matta is one of three drivers from the American series to be testing with Toyota for Formula One: ex-F1 driver Tora Takagi has tested and Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves will be behind the wheel of a Toyota F1 car later this year.

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Toyota Racing.
"I was happier doing the F1 test than doing the Indy 500," said da Matta. "The 500 will be there next year, I might never have a chance to drive the F1 car again. It would take all day to explain how different it was, completely different. I never realized how different it would be. The cockpit is a lot smaller, even for me. I couldn't get as far away from the steering wheel as I wanted. The clutch is on the back side of the steering wheel."

"You have the two butterflies to change gears. You have buttons to go to neutral. The rest of the controls are the same as the champ car. You use the clutch just to come out of pits, then no more. You don't change up, you let that happen automatically. But you usually downshift manually. You can do it automatically, but Mika (Salo) said it's better to do the downshift manually."

Toyota have many motorsport concerns and the tests are reportedly a courtesy by the F1 team to other drivers; there is no indication that Toyota are looking to replace either of their current drivers, Mika Salo and Allan McNish. Da Matta found both drivers to be helpful: "Everybody says everyone in F1 is so closed but Mika was extremely nice," he commented. "He told me that any questions I wanted to ask, he was there to help me. Allan was very nice to me too. "