Toyota's Ricardo Zonta looks ahead to the Brazilian Grand Prix, his home race Q: How did it feel not to travel to Suzuka for the last grand prix? Ricardo Zonta: The Japanese Grand Prix was the first race weekend that I have not been to since I...
Toyota's Ricardo Zonta looks ahead to the Brazilian Grand Prix, his home race
Q: How did it feel not to travel to Suzuka for the last grand prix?
Ricardo Zonta: The Japanese Grand Prix was the first race weekend that I have not been to since I joined Panasonic Toyota Racing at the start of 2003. However, I fully understand how important it is to have Jarno (Trulli) in the race team to start our 2005 preparations earlier than planned.
Q: Where did you watch the race and what was it like?
RZ: Instead of going to Suzuka, I was at home in Brazil, and as the race was at 3 o'clock in the morning I watched from my bed. Of course I'm quite used to watching races on TV because that's how I spent last year and the first half of this year.
Q: What did you think of the team's performance?
RZ: It was a pleasant surprise to see that both our cars qualified in the top ten. After that, we were expecting to get at least one car into the points, but as we saw, it was just not possible. If you look at our results, when everyone stays in the race, we've generally finished between 11th and 13th and that was the case in Suzuka. Naturally, I was sad for the team because it would have been very important to score some points, but on the other hand we know that we still need to improve the car a lot.
Q: Now we head to your home race in Brazil. How well can Toyota get on there?
RZ: It's difficult to tell how we will get on in Brazil. Interlagos is a very bumpy track and our car has struggled over bumps this season, however that was also the case last year and we were actually in quite good shape. Obviously I would like the car to go well because it would be very nice for me to fight for points or a good position at my home race.
Q: As a Brazilian, how much time have you spent at Interlagos over the years?
RZ: As a fan, I once went to see the grand prix at Interlagos - in 1990 when Nelson Piquet was in a Benetton and Ayrton Senna was in a McLaren. My own first race was in 1993 in a Formula Opel, and I've since raced there in other formulae. I have had lots of pole positions and fastest laps there and always a lot of fun. Some of my best times were in Formula 3 up against people like Cristiano da Matta and Helio Castroneves.
Q: What do you think of the circuit itself?
RZ: I like the circuit a lot. It's very difficult, and the track is completely different to any other race track because it is so narrow and bumpy. That's what makes it special. It's also one of the few anti-clockwise tracks left on the calendar. Most other circuits have more right turns than left turns, so if you are not fit enough you can have problems with your neck at a place like Interlagos. But if you do enough work on your neck it's not a problem, so I don't expect to have any difficulties.
Q: What are the other technical characteristics of the track?
RZ: Interlagos is a medium downforce circuit. The infield is twisty and requires a lot of downforce, but you have a long straight as well. If you have too much downforce on that you will go backwards. So, just as in Shanghai, you have to compromise. The only real passing opportunity comes at the end of the straight.
Q: How much extra support do you get as a Brazilian at home?
RZ: It makes a massive difference when you are a Brazilian racing in Brazil and you can really notice it. The fans applaud every time we go out of the pits. They also scream our name and do things that we don't usually get anywhere else. That's always nice - it doesn't add to the pressure, it just helps. I also get a lot of support from my own friends and family. I don't know exactly how many people will go this year, but it will be a lot. People from my father's company will all be going. They rent up buses to take them the 400km from my home town of Curitiba and it's crazy!
Q: What's your personal goal for the weekend?
RZ: I was fighting for points in Spa and Shanghai and I only missed out because of rare technical reliability problems. So I think I deserve at least a point at Interlagos this weekend, and that's what I want to get.
Q: How much of a difference does it make to go into the race weekend knowing that it's the only one you're scheduled to drive for a while?
RZ: Right now I want to give more than 100 percent. Of course I give my maximum at every grand prix and at every track. But as I have raced so much in Sao Paulo in the past, hopefully I can use that experience to improve my lap time. I feel a lot more confident at this track than the others, so I will be able to try some extra things to see if I can go quicker and finish the season in the best way possible.