da Matta reflects on Melbourne

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back at his debut Grand Prix at the season opener in Melbourne last weekend. "Melbourne couldn't have come soon enough for me. After an intense winter test programme with Panasonic Toyota Racing I was anxious to...

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back at his debut Grand Prix at the season opener in Melbourne last weekend.

"Melbourne couldn't have come soon enough for me. After an intense winter test programme with Panasonic Toyota Racing I was anxious to get racing and to go head-to-head with the best drivers in the world. And what an experience it was!"

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Toyota Racing.
"In terms of competitiveness, Formula 1 lived up to my expectations. There is no room for errors of any kind at this level but, as a rookie, my job was made harder by the new rules. The amount of track time over the entire weekend has been cut by nearly half compared to last year, which meant that I had just one hour of free practice on Friday in which to learn the track and find a set-up prior to first qualifying."

"I was pleased to set a time just 0.1-seconds slower than my Panasonic Toyota Racing team-mate Olivier Panis - and even happier with the knowledge that, had I not run wide at the penultimate corner, I could have taken a top 5 position. Yes, I pushed too hard, but I took some comfort from that fact that I'd proved to everyone that I can be quick in F1."

"Saturday qualifying didn't go quite as well for me, but I never expected to be equal to Olivier because we were on different strategies. We had different fuel loads and different tyre compounds, but I thought my more conservative choice would leave me in good shape over a race distance."

"My qualifying lap was also affected when I ran wide at the exit of Turn Five, in which I broke my front left brake duct. This probably cost me about 0.6-seconds over the remainder of the lap and I lined up 16th on the grid for my debut race. There is a lot of pressure on a driver over one lap and, on this occasion, I pushed slightly too hard."

"Overall, I think the new rules are good, but I'll be relieved when we get to Interlagos (race three) because that will be the first track that I already know. I won't need to use valuable track time on Friday learning which way the circuit goes - as was the case in Melbourne and as will be the case again in Sepang next week. I can get straight into car set-up."

"In the Australian GP itself, I came away really impressed by Panasonic Toyota Racing's decision-making processes. The team made absolutely the right call to start Olivier and I on dry tyres, although it made for some tough opening laps because the track was very slippery. It was a small price to pay for a strategic masterpiece. The start of the race was my first standing start since 1996 because in CART we had rolling starts."

"I then spun out of the race on lap seven, which was frustrating. I had safely completed the wet segment of the race but, as I went into turn two with two cars on my outside - obscuring my view of the braking markers on the left - I missed my usual braking point at 100 metres and had to brake at the 50-metre marker! It was too late to slow the car properly and I was in the gravel."

"If the way in which my race ended was a bit frustrating, at least I know the areas in which I need to work prior to the Malaysian Grand Prix on 23 March. And that process can begins in Jerez this week where Olivier and I will do two days' driving each."

"Olivier also retired from his first race with the team as a result of a fuel pressure problem, but he had been able to run with the leaders until then, which gives everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing lots of encouragement for the rest of the year. Let's hope we can be as strong and competitive in Malaysia next week."

-toyota-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Olivier Panis , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Toyota Racing