Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the Spanish Grand Prix Q: The Spanish Grand Prix takes place at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, a track that all the F1 teams know very well. What makes the track so good ...
Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the Spanish Grand Prix
Q: The Spanish Grand Prix takes place at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, a track that all the F1 teams know very well. What makes the track so good for testing?
"The biggest reason why everyone goes there is because the weather is better than most of the other available circuits, especially in the winter. It's also not as far away as going to Jerez or Valencia when it comes to transporting the equipment by road. But it's obviously a very good track to test F1 cars as well, because of the mixture of different types of corners. The circuit has long corners, fast flowing corners and some hard braking areas, and that makes it challenging to set up the car for slow speed, high speed, everything at the same time."
Q: Have you got any idea how many laps you've completed there?
"I don't know exactly, but I've certainly done more than 20 days of testing there. One way or another, that makes for a lot of laps - so many, in fact, that I can't even begin to estimate how many times I've gone round the circuit in total. And I've only been in the sport for just over a year..."
Q: How much do you like the circuit?
"I like the track - it's very interesting and I enjoy running there. It's a flowing track and it's important to keep the momentum flowing through the corners, so I enjoy setting up the car for the circuit. You set up the car in a similar way to what we use at Italy's Mugello, where we tested last week. It's also like Silverstone and, to a lesser extent, Suzuka. Unfortunately, because I've been there so many times, it is nothing special any more."
Q: Do you still learn new things about the track even having been there 20 times?
"There are always some new things to learn on every track. Of course at Barcelona most of the teams already know the more important things because we've all been there so many times. It's also the type of track where there's no advantage in knowing it very well because everyone does so many miles of testing there that it's the same for everyone. But there's always something new to learn. Even if you go there every day of the year, you'll still learn something."
Q: Does the fact that everyone knows it so well makes for a particular kind of grand prix, with less groundwork for the teams on Fridays?
"Because you have limited track time at a race weekend and all the other teams are working there at the same time at the day, the track is always different to any other test. Of course it's not completely different, but you're always doing some things that are different to what we usually do at testing. Plus when we test there you usually are in the winter when it's very cold. When we go there for the races we tend to have an ambient temperature of at least 20 degrees, and often even hotter."
Q: How is the circuit affected by different weather conditions?
"There's nothing special about the circuit in the wet. But, like every other track, it is affected when it is windy, and Barcelona seems to be even more sensitive to changes of wind direction."
Q: How do you like the area around the track in Barcelona?
"I like Spain a lot, and I have many friends there. Sometimes when I go testing there I stay on afterwards for a few days to visit my friends. I like to visit the city of Barcelona, too. It is a very lively city with many good restaurants and I like it a lot. There are also good places to mountain bike nearby, which I sometimes manage when I'm there for a test. Unfortunately I don't get enough time at a race."
Q: Last year you scored your first points in F1 there, with sixth place. What are your memories of that weekend?
"It was a good weekend all round, and I especially remember Friday qualifying where I managed to finish in fourth place. Of course the first time you get anything it's always a good feeling - so it was a good feeling to get points there last year."
Q: Did such a good early result make you expect more from the season overall?
"Up to a certain point, yes. I think we threw some opportunities away, but last year we were all still relative beginners. The team was in only its second year in the sport, and I was in my very first year. So if we miss some chances this season, perhaps we're not going to forgive ourselves as we did last year. This year we should be harder on ourselves."
Q: What are the chances of more points for Panasonic Toyota Racing at this year's Spanish Grand Prix?
"This time last year we were definitely in better shape than we are this season. But I think there is a bigger chance at Barcelona than in the first four races as the track has suited our car quite well over the winter. I would love to be able to run as high as we ran there last year. My memories are good; I just want to keep them up."