Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the Malaysian Grand Prix Q: What do you expect from the Malaysian Grand Prix? Cristiano da Matta. Photo by Brousseau Photo. It goes without saying that the Australian Grand Prix was a ...
Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the Malaysian Grand Prix
Q: What do you expect from the Malaysian Grand Prix?
It goes without saying that the Australian Grand Prix was a highly frustrating weekend for everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing. We entered the weekend knowing that we would not be competing with the leading teams, but to qualify in 13th and then finish in 12th place in the race, two laps down on the race winner was extremely frustrating. Rest assured, though, we are doing all we can to turn things around as quickly as possible. For Malaysia, we have some new aerodynamic parts and we should also benefit from more favourable track characteristics and weather.
Q: What are the positive aspects of the TF104?
I think the reliability of the car has been very strong since we began testing in January. The RVX-04 engine is also very impressive and we proved in Australia that it has the durability to last an entire weekend at high revs with no trouble. The area we need to focus on is aerodynamics to acquire more downforce.
Q: What sort of development programme is set for the TF104 in the upcoming races?
With Mike Gascoyne, we are looking to develop the car progressively during the course of the season to make gains on the cars in front. The first major steps forward should be ready by the start of the European season, but we are adding new parts to the car all the time with a priority on finding more grip.
Q: In what way will the Sepang circuit be more advantageous?
The Malaysian circuit is faster, more flowing with longer straights, which will mean more emphasis on engine performance, one of our strengths. The hot weather in Malaysia will also be an advantage to Michelin, our tyre supplier, who have traditionally excelled at tracks with hotter climates.
Q: What is your opinion of the Sepang F1 Circuit?
Sepang was one of the nicer new circuits I drove on last year. It has a very modern feel to it and offers a good mix of corners and two long straights, which combined with the width of track, gives quite a few overtaking possibilities.
Q: How do you combat the heat and humidity when driving in Malaysia?
I am quite used to the heat and humidity and I didn't find it too bad during last year's race. Our fitness regime before each race is pretty much the same, but we do spend some time in Asia prior to the Malaysian race to acclimatise and adapt. Being a Brazilian, I actually find the colder weather in Europe harder to get used to!
Q: What have you been up to since the last race?
On the Monday after Australia, Olivier and I travelled to China to attend a press conference in Shanghai as a prelude to the Chinese GP later this year. After that, we went to Singapore to spend some time training with the team's physio in preparation for the Malaysian GP and it was good to have some time to concentrate on that after the very intensive schedule we had in the prior few weeks. I am feeling in good shape for the next race, and it will get better over the next few days.
Q: What do you think of the new qualifying format?
For me, the new back-to-back qualifying format didn't change our approach to race preparations. In the end, the rules are the same for everybody, so we just get on and do our best.
Q: How beneficial is the job of Ricardo Zonta on Friday mornings?
Having Ricardo at our disposal on Fridays is very useful, particularly as we have to make our tyre decision much earlier in the weekend. Ricardo's main function to do work on back-to-back tyre comparisons with the compounds we have available, whilst Olivier and me fine-tune the set-up of our cars.
Q: Do you have any personal goals for this weekend?
I think we are under no illusions as to how difficult the next few races are going to be. We have some new aerodynamic parts for Malaysia, which should help us out a bit, but I think we are just going to be focussed on the job in hand and see what happens. We'll do our best, or 'Gambari masu!' as they say in Japanese.