Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the San Marino Grand Prix Q: How has the 2004 season been going for you? "For me it's been very disappointing to see where we stand so far. We'll keep working hard and keep trying to make it better...
Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the San Marino Grand Prix
Q: How has the 2004 season been going for you?
"For me it's been very disappointing to see where we stand so far. We'll keep working hard and keep trying to make it better and hopefully we can find the solutions as soon as we can because right now we're still not where we want to be."
Q: After the disappointing start in Australia, Panasonic Toyota Racing performed better in Malaysia and Bahrain. How much of that was down to an increase in pace, and how much down to the nature of the tracks?
"It was a combination of both increased performance and track characteristics that helped us take a step forward in Malaysia and Bahrain. We made a few modifications to the car, and that helped us improve between Australia and Malaysia. In Bahrain we had exactly the same car as in Malaysia, and the improvements just came from setting up the car better. Also, we suffered a bit with the tyres in Australia, but Michelin did a great job at the other two tracks, so in Malaysia and Bahrain we were very competitive as far as the tyres were concerned."
Q: You and Olivier qualified 8th and 9th in Bahrain. Is that a realistic reflection of the team's performance?
"In Bahrain we had a very aggressive strategy in qualifying when it came to fuel and tyre selection. So I wouldn't say that was the true performance of our car and where we belong yet - we don't yet have the overall package to be regularly running that high. It's certainly where we ought to be, but we have to make sure we get there for real."
Q: The team has had a 100 percent reliability record and it narrowly missed out on the points, taking 9th and 10th on race day. What do you have to do to score points?
"I don't think it's bad luck that's kept us out of the points. So far we've done a very good job on the reliability of the car, and the only reason we couldn't get to the points is simply a lack of performance, but we are working hard on that."
Q: What improvements can we expect for the San Marino Grand Prix?
"We have a couple of new things to try for Imola. We ran some of new aerodynamic parts at the Barcelona test, including a front and rear wing, and we have continued with that programme at Paul Ricard this week. What we're counting on is that everything together, as a package, should make a reasonable difference."
Q: Do you enjoy racing at Imola?
"I have to admit that the Imola track is not one of my favourites. The chicanes are actually quite fun, but the circuit as a whole is just a bit too bumpy. Last year's San Marino Grand Prix was quite a difficult weekend for us. We had a car that was actually pretty competitive at the time, but we struggled at Imola, so it was a bit frustrating."
Q: How about the surrounding area?
"I like the area itself very much, and I especially enjoy being in Italy. I have many friends in Italy and sometimes I can see them in the course of the race weekend. The town of Imola is always a nice place to go out at night for a good pizza!"
Q: At least you will now be going back there with a year's experience. How much easier has it been to go back to tracks for the second time round this year?
"It makes a big difference when I visit a track for the second time. I don't have to learn all the nuances of the circuit, so I can start setting up the car right from the beginning of the session on Friday."
Q: The San Marino Grand Prix will be the tenth anniversary of the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna. Were you watching that race in 1994?
"I was in Brazil when I saw Ayrton's crash and my only thought at the time was that he would miss the next grand prix because of some injury. I never thought anything else could have happened to him."
Q: What memories do you have of Senna?
"My main memory of Senna was his qualifying speed - that was the biggest thing for him. Of course I admire his human side as well, but when I looked at him I just thought his speed was his natural talent. Everything seemed so easy for him and every driver since has wanted to know just how he did it!"