da Matta reflects on Spain

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back at the Spanish Grand Prix where he scored his and the team's first points of 2003. "It was fantastic to score Panasonic Toyota Racing's first world championship points of 2003 in Barcelona. Sixth place was...

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back at the Spanish Grand Prix where he scored his and the team's first points of 2003.

"It was fantastic to score Panasonic Toyota Racing's first world championship points of 2003 in Barcelona. Sixth place was a great reward for everyone in the team because we've worked hard to get to this level of competitiveness."

"To be honest, I was pretty confident prior to racing in Spain because I knew the TF103 would be competitive at the Circuit de Catalunya. The track's fast, sweeping corners suit the car's aerodynamics and my performance was helped by the fact that the team knew the track better than any of the ones we have raced at so far this year. Like most teams and drivers, we conducted most of our pre-season testing in Barcelona, and we had already completed over 3,500 kilometres in the TF103s at the track prior to Friday free practice."

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Toyota Racing.
"I was immediately on the pace during Friday morning's one-hour session and I discovered almost right away that Michelin had come with two good compounds of tyre. There wasn't much difference between the hard and the soft compounds, but that's normal at this track because it has a very abrasive surface and durability is vital."

"In the afternoon's one-lap qualifying session I was very pleased to set the fourth fastest time. To have just two Ferraris and a Renault ahead of me on the time sheets felt great. Yes, it was a clean lap, but the car was very, very good on a lighter fuel load."

"The car was still competitive on Saturday morning, but it seemed that everyone else had improved their cars more than me. Compared to Friday, I was much slower in the two 45-minute morning sessions, although I had no real handling problems. The speed just wasn't there with the set-up we had chosen."

"In qualifying on Saturday afternoon the handling got worst. We made a small change before qualifying and it was the wrong way to go. It made the car quite oversteery, which caused me to make a couple of mistakes that cost me about three-tenths-of-a-second. The result was a disappointing thirteenth place in qualifying, 0.8-seconds slower than Olivier."

"From there, however, my weekend got better and better. On Sunday morning Dr Toyoda honorary chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation and chairman Mr. Okuda visited us in the paddock for the first time this season. It was great for everyone in the team to see that he was taking a big interest in the F1 programme."

"From the moment I got into the car prior to the race, I knew it was competitive. On the drive to the grid it felt well balanced, even though the track was still dirty from the support races earlier in the day."

"When the race started I surprised myself by getting such a good run down to the first corner. This was only my second dry standing start of the year, but I passed Mark Webber off the line and managed to exit Turn 3 in eighth place."

"My car was very competitive in the first couple of stints, which allowed me to be consistent and to pressure Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya. Then, at my final pitstop, I asked the team to take out some front wing, which unfortunately gave too much understeer for the remainder of the race."

"Still, I was much faster than Ralf Schumacher in the closing laps, but I couldn't find a way through. The only chance I had to overtake him was into Turn 1, but I was on the rev limiter in seventh gear half way down the pit straight, so I couldn't get close enough. Anyway, I didn't really want to risk my sixth place with some foolish overtaking manoeuvre. Not at this stage of the season."

"What made the result even sweeter was that my parents were watching it in the paddock. They are my biggest supporters, so it was great that they saw the result first hand. They were the first people to congratulate me when I got back to the motorhome."

"It was also a very satisfying result for me personally because I proved that I can get the job done. We are testing at Paul Ricard this week, both myself and Olivier will do two days' running each, with Ricardo driving alongside for three-days of the four-day session before we head to the Austrian Grand Prix next week. I have never been to the A1 Ring before, but my confidence has never been higher. I want more points!"

-toyota-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Toyota Racing