da Matta reflects on Malaysia

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back at the Malaysian Grand Prix "To be honest, the Malaysian Grand Prix was a bit frustrating for everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing. Our TF103 was quite competitive at Sepang and we should have scored points,...

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back at the Malaysian Grand Prix

"To be honest, the Malaysian Grand Prix was a bit frustrating for everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing. Our TF103 was quite competitive at Sepang and we should have scored points, but we had to come away empty-handed because of various reliability problems."

"But, as much as I am disappointed, I am also encouraged because we proved once again that the TF103 is a quick racing car."

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Toyota Racing.
"I had never been to Sepang before and I liked the track a lot. It is one of the nicest F1 circuits I have seen, but it is a long lap - 5.543-kilometres - and has a good mix of corners. The heat and humidity make it a great physical challenge as well, but I enjoy that."

"On Friday I managed to get up to speed pretty quickly and I was pleased to set the 11th fastest time in the afternoon's one-lap qualifying session after only one hour of free practice in the morning, in which to learn the track. That result gave me and my race engineer, Ossi Oikarinen, a lot of confidence for the rest of the weekend and it prompted us to run with a heavy fuel load in Saturday's one-lap qualifying. But that's when things started to go wrong."

"During the 15-minute warm-up prior to Saturday qualifying, we found that the clutch on my car wouldn't disengage properly and, rather than risk a mechanical problem that could have left me at the back of the grid, we opted to use the T-car during the session. At least it was set-up for me this weekend, so there was no need to adjust the pedals or seat position."

"The car wasn't quite to my liking from a set-up point of view. The two cars are very similar in terms of performance, but the T-car was not as finely tuned as my race car. Given all this drama, however, I was happy to qualify 11th and to be only 0.003-seconds slower than Olivier."

"On Sunday, when the pitlane opened half an hour before the start of the race, I was one of the first cars onto the track - and it was a good thing that I was! As I arrived at Turn 5, I suddenly found myself unable to accelerate. The problem was caused by a faulty throttle system and I could do nothing other than cruise back to the pits at 80kph. When I arrived in the pits the team looked at the car and realised that they couldn't fix the problem in the short space of time before we had to be on the grid, so I jumped into the spare car, which, funnily enough, was my original race car at the start of the weekend."

"Because of the revised F1 regulations on T-car use, I had to start the race from the pitlane so, with nothing to lose, I opted for a one-stop strategy. Things looked pretty good for me early on because I survived the first corner accident and was up to 12th place by lap four. But, once the fuel load started to drop, the engine started to misfire."

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Toyota Racing.
"The cause was a similar fuel pressure problem to the one that Olivier had in Melbourne, and occurred due to the extremely high temperatures of the fuel in the hot Malaysian weather conditions, so we had no option other than to change my strategy and keep the car fully tanked up throughout the race. In the end, I crossed the line in 11th place, one lap down and after three pit stops, which was not a bad result all things considered."

"From Sepang, the team has a four-day test at Barcelona, where I am driving for the opening two days (Tuesday and Wednesday). Our main objective is to solve this fuel pressure problem and, to give ourselves time to do this, we have lengthened the test from three to four days, with Olivier driving for the final two days. It is, however, tricky to replicate the problem when testing in Europe because the ambient temperatures are nowhere near as high as the 40-degrees we endured in Sepang."

"After Barcelona, it's off to Brazil for my home race, which I'm really excited about. Although I'm not from Sao Paulo, several members of my family are flying in from my home city of Belo Horizonte - a two-hour flight away - to watch the race."

"Interlagos is the first track this year that I know, so at least I won't waste any laps learning the circuit on Friday morning and can get straight down to working on set-up. Having said that, I haven't raced there since Formula 3 in December 1994, so it has been a while!"

"Fingers crossed I can get my first points finish in Formula 1."

-toyota-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Cristiano da Matta
Teams Toyota Racing