Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the European Grand Prix Q: Cristiano, you enter the European GP on the back of a 6th-placed finish in Monaco last weekend, how does that feel? Cristiano da Matta. Photo by Brousseau ...
Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the European Grand Prix
Q: Cristiano, you enter the European GP on the back of a 6th-placed finish in Monaco last weekend, how does that feel?
"Obviously, given our recent level of performance, I think we should be very pleased with the result from Monaco. Starting from 15th on the grid, I made a good start to be up to 12th after the first lap, and then benefited from a couple of retirements to be in a good points-scoring position. Our pace in the race was the best it has been all season so far, and I was able to retain a fifth place quite easily, even keeping up with Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari at one point, but then I was unfairly given the drive-through penalty which probably lost me and the team even more points."
Q: In your opinion what happened with the blue flags?
"It was all very confusing in my opinion. I was sat behind Ralf Schumacher for ages and he was one lap behind me, but he just wasn't letting me past despite the blue flags. Then when I was given a blue flag to let Jenson Button past, I reacted immediately and let him past at the next corner. When the team told me that I had been given a drive-through penalty, I couldn't understand why and as a direct consequence of that penalty, I believe we lost a fourth-placed finish."
Q: Looking now to N?rburgring, the team was very competitive there last season, so what do you expect this weekend?
"Last season, we had a strong qualifying session to place both cars in the top ten, and I felt very confident, having reacquainted myself with the revised track quite quickly on Friday. In the end, though, despite our competitive package, we were unable to finish the race. My chance to score points ended just after my first stop though when I hit one of the bollards through the chicane and was forced into the pits to replace broken front wing. Ultimately, it made little difference as we experienced our only engine failure of the season four laps from the flag after a drop in oil pressure. Not a happy end to what should have been a strong race result for Toyota."
Q: What do you think of the N?rburgring track?
"Like most European tracks, the N?rburgring is a maximum downforce circuit with a variety of low-medium speed corners and straights, which demand good mechanical grip and traction. I raced at the track back in F3000 in 1996, but the changes made to the first corner last year, meant that I had to relearn the layout last season. I got up to speed quite quickly in Friday practice, but found the revised infield section a little too slow for my liking."
Q: Do you think that Panasonic Toyota Racing can score a second successive points finish this weekend?
"Well, after Monaco, I think we are all in high spirits and determined to extract the most from our TF104 race cars at the N?rburgring. I think it would be wrong to get carried away with the Monaco result, because we all know that there was an element of luck in scoring those four points, so it was not an accurate reflection of our performance level. We will simply continue to do the best job we can and see where we are after the first practice sessions."
Q: You set the 8th fastest lap of the Monaco Grand Prix, which must be encouraging?
"Everyone did a good job over the Monaco weekend and we were reasonably competitive in the race at a bumpy, maximum downforce circuit that should really not have suited our car. This is encouraging, yes, but I prefer to stay realistic and take things as they come."
Q: With back-to-back races, there is not much time to prepare for the European Grand Prix, so how will you approach the first session on Friday?
"The fact that we only have three days between races means that there is no chance to test, so essentially, we are going to the N?rburgring with the same car we had in Monaco. The crucial element will be how quickly we can fine-tune the set-up of the car in practice and see where we go from there."
Q: Finally, how important is the European Grand Prix for Panasonic Toyota Racing?
"The European Grand Prix takes place just 45-minutes drive from the Toyota F1 factory in Cologne, so it is a home race for the team. Everyone in the factory will have the chance to go down to the track to watch from the grandstands, so we will have a lot of support. We just have to try and give everyone something to cheer about on Sunday afternoon."