Toyota's Olivier Panis looks back over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend Q: How did you spend the time between Malaysia and Bahrain? "I went back to Europe directly after Malaysia and spent three or four days skiing with my family close to where...
Toyota's Olivier Panis looks back over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend
Q: How did you spend the time between Malaysia and Bahrain?
"I went back to Europe directly after Malaysia and spent three or four days skiing with my family close to where I live in Grenoble. It was nice to get a few days of good, clean, fresh air after the humidity in Malaysia. I have a house close to the mountains in France, near Gap. It was a good way to get over the disappointment of the race because one of my personal qualities is never to give up, even when things are not at their peak."
Q: How did you feel after the frustration of the Malaysian Grand Prix?
"The Malaysian weekend was actually positive compared to Melbourne and I was quite pleased. The painful thing was that I had been pushing so hard to fight for points and the team had changed the strategy a bit during the race to allow us to pass some cars, but in the end the communications problem ended any chance of capitalising on this. It was still a good weekend for us, performance-wise."
Q: When did you arrive in Bahrain?
"I flew into Bahrain on the Tuesday before the race. It was my first time in the Middle East and I felt immediately that it was a very nice place. I was amazingly impressed by what they have done with the circuit and the facilities."
Q: What is the Bahrain International circuit like to drive?
"The Bahrain International Circuit is very technical but quite typical of the new generation of Formula 1 circuits -- heavy braking, hairpins, and acceleration. If that gives us more spectacle and more overtaking possibilities, then I respect that. I think we will have a similar type of track in China later in the season and in many respects Malaysia is the same. There are a few corners where you don't see where you are going. I made a mistake at Turn 10 on my qualifying run for instance, and lost 0.3s."
"As it turned out I didn't lose any grid positions but what happened was that someone had knocked over a cone that I had been using as a braking marker! I arrived, didn't see it and so was late on the brakes. You also had to concentrate extra hard all the time because off the line the surface was very slippery."
Q: What are your impressions of the weekend as a whole?
"Overall, we showed another improvement in our performance in Bahrain compared to Australia and Malaysia. The car suited the track, we had very competitive Michelin tyres and our race strategy was aggressive. We enjoyed a trouble-free weekend operationally and I believe that we managed to get the best out of our package. The entire team is working at a high level both at the track and back in Cologne, and this is really positive for me."
Q: Were you unlucky to just miss the points in Bahrain?
"Bahrain was another race where I pushed 110% all afternoon and missed out on a championship point by less than 2 seconds. We went for an aggressive race strategy and qualified both cars in the top 10, me eighth and Cristiano ninth. I was the first car to pit, after 6 laps, but I lost a couple of places and then there was nothing I could do about Fernando Alonso, who was coming through from the back after he had a problem in qualifying. Everyone's reliability was pretty astounding when you consider that 17 of the 20 starters were classified finishers on a new circuit. In the end it was a battle with Mark Webber's Jaguar to score the last point and I couldn't quite manage to get past him."
Q: How is the feeling at Panasonic Toyota Racing after the first three races?
"The feeling in Panasonic Toyota Racing at the moment, after a somewhat testing start to the season, is actually very good. We know the car we have and we need to get 100% out of it while we wait for some new parts to come through the system. The arrival of Mike Gascoyne as Technical Director Chassis has been very good news and together we will definitely continue to get better."
Q: Last year, getting the best out of the Michelin tyres was a problem. Is that improving?
"We have improved the car's rear end tremendously compared to last season. This year it is much stiffer and better for tyre degradation. It's quite good to be honest, but we still have some work to do on the aerodynamics side. A lot of teams have improved in that area but everybody at Toyota appreciates that and we are concentrating very hard on the wind tunnel work. Inevitably it takes time but we have a very straight direction and we know exactly what we need to achieve."
Q: What improvements will Panasonic Toyota Racing have for Imola on April 25?
"Of course, I am hoping for a performance gain for the San Marino race. We don't want to expect too much because we know that we weren't fantastic over the kerbs at Imola last year. We are working on repackaging the car to reduce the weight and lower the centre of gravity. Together with some new aero parts, I am sure we will make some progress. In the meantime, I am testing at Barcelona this week in preparation for the first European races, so I hope for some good running."