Toyota's Olivier Panis looks back over the German Grand Prix weekend Q: The updated TF104 chassis was ready for Hockenheim. How do you feel about it? Olivier Panis. Photo by LAT Photographic. Olivier Panis: Friday practice was the...
Toyota's Olivier Panis looks back over the German Grand Prix weekend
Q: The updated TF104 chassis was ready for Hockenheim. How do you feel about it?
Olivier Panis: Friday practice was the first day with the new car and it wasn't easy to find a balance. The times might have looked a little disappointing but they were not representative. We did the tyre work in the morning. We didn't try new rubber in the second session, which is worth a lot of time and so we couldn't really see where we were. We worked hard with the engineers overnight and when we went out on Saturday morning it was a big step forward. The car looked really competitive and I think qualifying ninth was really what we expected. But it's not easy to catch up because everyone else is making progress at the same time. But now we know that the wind tunnel is very accurate because Mike Gascoyne has made changes, which appear to be working.
Q: What feels different about the TF104B?
OP: The main improvements on the TF104B really came from having more grip. That gives you more confidence and it gets better and better, meaning you can push a bit more. What we did in qualifying, 1 second off Michael Schumacher's pace, was quite acceptable. Another tenth of a second or so and we'd have been pushing the top six.
Q: Was the car more consistency over longer runs?
OP: The car looked very good on long runs during Saturday morning compared to the old car. If you think of half a second a lap it adds up to more than half a minute by the end of the race. That completely changes your result. It looked that way because I did some long runs on Saturday morning, and Cristiano too, and the pace was very positive.
Q: So the stall at the start of the race was obviously incredibly frustrating?
OP: What can I say...? It was just so annoying after all the effort. I was so looking forward to the race because I knew we could score points. We'll have to have a close look to see what exactly happened.
Q: Is it too early to assess the updated car then?
OP: No, I think we can already see that it is a good step. I'd say we've found between three and five tenths and we know that the wind tunnel is accurate because what we have found in the tunnel has translated onto the car. We are pushing hard to have the new aero kit for the high-speed circuits like Monza. We are on the pace now.
Q: So the improvements are mainly aerodynamic?
OP: The improvements have come from having better aerodynamics. The engine we have is fantastic and everything looks good with the stiffness of the car, but downforce and aero efficiency is where the lap time is.
Q: Is Hockenheim a place where you will see strong aero gains?
OP: Hockenheim is a maximum downforce circuit, more or less. It is a bit like Budapest, a different circuit layout maybe but still a lot of downforce. The track is low-speed now.
Q: Do you like modern day Hockenheim?
OP: I actually really enjoyed the old Hockenheimring, but I understand the safety issues. The old track was fantastic because it was so different -- like Monza. But the new one is not so bad because I think the idea of having a low speed corner before a long straight gives you the chance to follow a car quite closely and have some fighting under braking for the Turn 6 hairpin.
Q: Has the testing ban come at a bad time for you?
OP: The fact that we cannot test until the beginning of September is the same for everyone. Of course we have a new car and if we had a two or three day test before Budapest it would have been helpful. But two and a half weeks holiday is pretty good for everybody too! I'm not just thinking about the drivers but also the mechanics and everybody else, who have really been under pressure with the closely compacted calendar and the back-to-back races. Everyone has been putting in a huge effort and I think it is important for people to recharge their batteries and then start again in Budapest.
Q: Have you noticed a physical difference with the tight schedule?
OP: It was hard this year. I don't feel a big difference physically but we need to manage our time a little differently to take a rest, because all the time we are racing and testing or under pressure. We need to be sensible sometimes. I'd prefer to take a week's rest, train and just relax. I've been fortunate but if you get any injury, like a strained back or something, it's hard to get it properly healed without much recovery time.
Q: How will you spend the rare three-week break?
OP: I have a house in the mountains, not far from Gap, and at the end of this week I am going there for a week with my wife and kids. Just to enjoy my time and the fresh air with no pollution. You need that sometimes!