Da Matta reflects on Europe

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back over the European Grand Prix weekend "Although I was disappointed not to finish the European Grand Prix, I feel like I still had quite a positive weekend. I enjoyed driving the TF103 around the Nürburgring...

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back over the European Grand Prix weekend

"Although I was disappointed not to finish the European Grand Prix, I feel like I still had quite a positive weekend. I enjoyed driving the TF103 around the N?rburgring because it was a competitive package, particularly through the quick corners in the middle section of the lap."

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.
"I hadn't driven around the N?rburgring since 1996, when I raced there in Formula 3000, so I spent most of Friday's first session learning the track. The beginning section had been changed since I last drove here and I found it a little too slow. I preferred the quick S bend that was there beforehand because it was more challenging. It took a while to get the car dialled in through here, especially under braking for Turn 1, where my car was unstable all weekend."

"One-lap qualifying on Friday afternoon was a washout by the time I got onto the track. It started to rain very hard while I was on my lap - on grooved tyres - and I had a complete nightmare. I spun quite early in the lap and the team told me to abort for safety reasons, so I pitted without crossing the finish line. It meant that I was the second car out on Saturday afternoon, when the track was still very green, and I think that cost me the chance of an even better grid position."

"During the first 45-minute practice session on Saturday morning I struggled with mid-corner understeer through the slow sections of the track and adopted my team-mate Olivier Panis's set-up. I felt an immediate improvement in the handling of the car and felt like I was ready for one-lap qualifying in the afternoon."

"Given that the track was still very slippery, my lap in Saturday afternoon qualifying was okay, but I was disappointed not to be closer to Olivier's time. He was 0.6s faster than me and it was only after I looked at our telemetry traces from the session that I realised there were a few secrets about this track that I still didn't know. But I was still 10th on the grid, which was pretty cool. It was my third top 10 grid position in a row, so it wasn't too disappointed."

"In the race I got away from the line well and ended the first lap in my grid position, 10th. The car was good in the first stint and allowed me to hold onto David Coulthard and Olivier, who were just ahead. I suffered a bit of tyre graining, but nothing too serious and the car was quite consistent. I had a good first pitstop, but two laps later I was back in the pits needing a new nose."

"As I turned into the chicane I used too much kerb on the left hand side and hit one of the bollards that are designed to stop the cars from doing that. I didn't feel anything though the steering and, to be honest, it came as a bit of a shock when I saw that the wing was broken."

"Once I had pitted for the new nose - which the guys managed to change really quickly in about 15 seconds - my chances of a points' finish were over. I was way behind the group of cars that I had been following, but I still drove as hard as I could so that we could get some good data. I kept a good pace and everything ran fine until my engine blew up on lap 56 - four laps from the finish - after a drop in the oil pressure."

"With Olivier not finishing the race either, there was a sense of frustration in the Panasonic Toyota Racing garage afterwards because everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing knew that the car was good enough for several points today. Mark Webber, Jenson Button and Nick Heidfeld all scored points in the race and we had been ahead of them all until we retired."

"But at least we were quick! And we don't have to wait too long before the next grand prix to put everything right. Roll on Magny Cours next weekend - a points finish in France is definitely on the cards!"

-toyota-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Olivier Panis , Nick Heidfeld , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Toyota Racing