Da Matta reflects on France

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back over the French Grand Prix weekend "For Panasonic Toyota Racing, one of the most important issues of the French Grand Prix weekend was to re-discover our reliability. I retired from the Canadian and...

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

"For Panasonic Toyota Racing, one of the most important issues of the French Grand Prix weekend was to re-discover our reliability. I retired from the Canadian and European Grands Prix shortly before the end of the race, so more than anything we wanted a two-car finish in France. And we got it."

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.
"But in terms of performance, we weren't quite as good as expected at Magny-Cours. On paper we expected the track to suit our TF103 because it has lots of medium and high-speed corners, and in the end it wasn't too bad because Olivier managed to finish eighth, which was particularly nice in front of the French fans. However, from my own point of view we were not as strong as I had initially hoped. I think we never recovered from the lack of dry running on Friday, when the hour of free practice in the morning was hit by rain."

"The times in the afternoon were governed by when you went out because the track was drying throughout the session. I opted for intermediate tyres and, while I think that was the correct tyre choice at the time, I was surprised at how dry the track was. I was 10th, which was reasonable in the circumstances, but I was pleased for Jos Verstappen and Minardi that they were quickest because it got people talking about a team that never usually grabs the headlines."

"But the main result of Friday's rain was that we had just a few laps on Saturday morning in which to do a proper evaluation of the two Michelin options available to us and I think we made the wrong decision by opting for the harder compound and a two-stop strategy in the race. It meant that we had to qualify with a lot more fuel than the guys on a three-stop strategy, and my whole race was compromised by the abrasive track surface, which meant I had a lot of tyre graining."

"As for one-lap qualifying on Saturday, I was pretty pleased with my lap time to be 13th fastest, just 0.7s off Olivier. I think I could have been even closer had I not lost some time at the last chicane. I took too much kerb on the left side which cost me one or two-tenths of a second. Had I got that right, I would have been a bit further up the grid."

"As for the race, to finish 11th was about as much as I could have hoped for. Many drivers were on three-stop strategies, so I struggled a bit for pace because I always had more fuel on board than them. My pitstops were also longer than the others because I had to take on more fuel and I eventually lost track position to Antonio Pizzonia, which was a bit frustrating."

"Anyway, we now look forward to Silverstone in two weeks time, where I am pretty confident we can get a good result. The car was very competitive when we tested there a month ago and we have some new parts coming for the race weekend, which should make it handle even better."

"But, before then, I have a very busy schedule. I flew straight from Magny-Cours to Barcelona for testing and I then go to England on Friday, where I am attending the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I have no idea what to expect, but I am told that I have to drive the TF103 up the Goodwood hill, which sounds interesting!"

"I enjoy the history of motorsport, so I am looking forward to seeing all the old cars. I hope to see lots of you at Goodwood too. If you are coming, pay me a visit at the Toyota stand."

-toyota-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Antonio Pizzonia , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Toyota Racing , Minardi