Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the French Grand Prix Q: Panasonic Toyota Racing heads to Magny-Cours fresh from taking four points at the US Grand Prix. It was an incident-filled race, but how far does that result accurately reflect...
Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the French Grand Prix
Q: Panasonic Toyota Racing heads to Magny-Cours fresh from taking four points at the US Grand Prix. It was an incident-filled race, but how far does that result accurately reflect the team's pace at Indianapolis?
Cristiano da Matta: What we achieved at Indianapolis was a genuine result. We had by far the best performance from our car all year and we were right on the pace. The track suited our car quite well and we were competitive in all the practice sessions. Qualifying was not great for me and I didn't put in a good lap but I knew I had a good car for the race. It's just a shame that I couldn't make anything out of it because I was hit on the first lap.
Q: Last year, Panasonic Toyota Racing took a point at the French Grand Prix, so is there anything about the Magny-Cours circuit that could suit this year's car?
CdM: Magny-Cours is a very smooth track, and in theory that should help us a bit as we've struggled over bumps this year. In that respect the circuit is similar to Indianapolis, so hopefully we can hope for a performance that is not too far away. But it's a relatively high downforce circuit, so that's not a particularly good thing for us at the moment. We were very strong in America last year, so we expected to be better there this year too. But last year we didn't have a great weekend at Magny-Cours, even though we ended up in the points.
Q: How well do you like the track itself?
CdM: Magny-Cours is an okay circuit. It's not my favourite circuit, but it's not a circuit I dislike either. The main characteristics are the fast chicanes. It also has a couple of high speed corners combined with a couple of very slow sections. It's not an easy circuit for overtaking, but you can do it -- especially at the hairpin.
Q: Do you have any favourite corners?
CdM: I like the first two corners, which are fast and very long. The quick chicanes are also challenging for a driver. And the new section at the end of the track, which was introduced last year, is a bit better than it used to be -- especially the last chicane.
Q: How well do you like the area around Magny-Cours?
CdM: The hotel where we stay is very nice. It's a little bit far away from everything -- probably half an hour from the race track -- but it's in the middle of the woods in a nice place to go for a run. There's not much around the circuit itself, and I prefer the area around Paul Ricard, our regular test track.
Q: It's been a hard year so far for Panasonic Toyota Racing, but how much have you enjoyed the season as a whole?
CdM: I'm still enjoying the season, but at the same time it's frustrating not to be where we expected. Obviously we didn't start the season as well as we imagined and we were hoping for much better results than we have right now. But you always enjoy driving a race car. Perhaps it's a lot less fun than it could be if we were scoring points and fighting for the positions we were expecting, but I still love driving the car. I enjoy going to the race weekends and I enjoy working on the car in testing trying to find new things and solutions to problems.
Q: What are you doing before the French Grand Prix?
CdM: Before we go to France for the grand prix, I am going to the UK to participate in the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I was there last year and I found it to be a really nice event. The level of support from the fans is phenomenal, really. Unfortunately, it is difficult to move around as a driver, but I am looking forward to it this weekend. Me, Olivier and Ricardo will be taking turns during the weekend to drive last year's TF103 up the hill, whilst I have the additional pleasure of driving my 2002 championship-winning CART car. It should be fun!