da Matta reflects on Austria

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back at the Austrian Grand Prix "It's strange how quickly your fortunes change in Formula 1. Two weeks ago I scored Panasonic Toyota Racing's first points of the year in Spain, having got the TF103 working...

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back at the Austrian Grand Prix

"It's strange how quickly your fortunes change in Formula 1. Two weeks ago I scored Panasonic Toyota Racing's first points of the year in Spain, having got the TF103 working really well around the Circuit de Catalunya. Then, just two weeks later, we went to the A1-Ring for the Austrian Grand Prix and we struggled massively."

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Toyota Racing.
"To be honest, our lack of performance in Austria was a bit of a mystery because there was no specific problem with the car, other than a general lack of grip. The balance was okay and there was some mid-corner understeer, but you'd expect to be able to cure that by making some changes to the set-up."

"My progress on Friday wasn't helped by me having to learn the track in the morning session. Luckily the A1-Ring is only a short lap - around 1m10s - so it didn't take too long to get the hang of it, but with these new rules you need to maximise every minute of every session if you are to get a good set-up. As it was, I knew immediately that we had a grip problem and, come the first one-lap qualifying session on Friday afternoon, I was back in 16th place, which was very frustrating."

"The car's performance improved steadily during the weekend, but I think we were helped during Saturday qualifying by other people making mistakes on their quick laps. I ended up 13th, 0.4 seconds slower than my Panasonic Toyota Racing team-mate Olivier Panis. I think I got the maximum out of the car and drove a clean lap, which I was pleased with."

"As for the race, I'm sure all of you who watched it on television saw me waving my arms around prior to each of the two false starts. There was some kind of connection problem between my steering wheel and the car because when I pressed the launch control button for the start, the engine just stalled. I waved my arms around and Charlie Whiting, the FIA starter, aborted the start."

"I had to go to the back of the grid for causing the restart, so I knew already that I had a difficult race ahead of me. Then, for the new formation lap, I tried using the launch control again and it worked. After discussion over the radio with my race engineer Ossi Oikarinen, we decided to use it for the new start proper, but again the engine stalled and the start was aborted for a second time."

"For the third start I didn't want to risk using launch control and I did a manual start, using the clutch on the steering wheel. I got away okay - albeit with a bit too much wheelspin - and began working my way through the field. In the race I had no reliability problems at all, which made what happened with the launch control all the more mystifying and annoying."

"As for the TF103, it handled okay during the race. It had more grip than at any other time in the weekend, making it more predictable to drive. That progress was highlighted by my fastest race lap, which was 0.4 seconds faster than I managed during Saturday afternoon qualifying. Given all the problems I had, I was pleased to finish 10th and to score my fifth finish in six races."

"From Austria, the Panasonic Toyota Racing team moves to Paul Ricard for a big pre-Monaco test. I am driving for only one day, which gives me a chance to relax ahead of the race, which I am really excited about. I have never raced at Monaco, but the other drivers tell me that it is just fantastic to drive around. There are lots of challenging corners and I hope that my street track experience in ChampCar will help me get to grips with it quickly."

"As to how we will get on in Monaco, I have no idea. I just hope the car performs more like it did in Spain, rather than how it was in Austria!"

-toyota-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Olivier Panis , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Toyota Racing