da Matta reflects on Brazil

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back on the Brazilian Grand Prix: "It was special to race in front of my home fans at Interlagos, and I was pretty amazed at the level of support I had. On one of the grandstands along the back straight there...

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back on the Brazilian Grand Prix:

"It was special to race in front of my home fans at Interlagos, and I was pretty amazed at the level of support I had. On one of the grandstands along the back straight there was a huge banner with my name on it. I'm told it was erected by a group of people from my hometown of Belo Horizonte - thanks guys!"

"Prior to the race weekend, I gladly took the opportunity to spend some days at home with my family and friends. On the Tuesday of race week, I took a flight from Belo Horizonte to Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo to visit some local Toyota plants. Normally, you can arrive at Belo Horizonte airport thirty minutes before the flight with no problems, but on this occasion I was stuck behind an entire orchestra, so getting through the security took longer than usual, and I missed the flight. Luckily, planes are very frequent, so I wasn't too late to our first venue, a Toyota plant in San Bernardo."

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.
"From there, we went to a plant in Indaiatuba - about 90 minutes' car drive from Sao Paulo to meet and greet the employees. There was a lot of support from Toyota do Brasil and the national Brazilian media. I was lucky enough to test-drive a new Corolla Fielder at the inauguration of the new test track there and it was fantastic fun. Next stop was actually back home in Belo Horizonte, where I had a jamming session with Jota Quest - one of Brazil's biggest pop-rock bands - filmed by TV Globo, Brazil's national TV station. They come from Belo Horzinte and are one of my favourite bands. One of them actually used to be my next-door neighbour, so it was good fun to catch up with them and play some guitar."

"As for the track action in Interlagos, the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend was frustrating for everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing. My team-mate Olivier Panis was taken out of the race by another car and I struggled with the handling of my TF103, particularly towards the end when the track started to dry out."

"You might think it is strange, but the car was much nicer to drive in the full wet conditions at the beginning of the race than it was once a dry line had appeared later on. The dry gave me more and more oversteer, which made the car very difficult to control. I pitted three times to modify the tyre pressures and to change the front wing angle, but we weren't able to find a solution. In the end, I finished 10th and the guys must examine the car closely when they get it back to the factory to see what exactly was wrong."

"To be honest with you, my weekend never really recovered from the lack of running on Friday, when the track was waterlogged. I did just two flying laps all day, which wasn't enough to know which tyre compound to use or to begin working on the set-up of the car."

"Then, when the track conditions were dry on Saturday morning, I spun at the first corner caused mainly by an imbalance in my TF103, but I managed to keep the engine running. It was only when I came to selecting first gear and move off when the engine stalled, which ended my session and cost me more valuable track time."

"So I wasn't that surprised when my car was difficult to drive during Saturday's one-lap qualifying session. It had less grip than I was expecting, particularly on the entry to slow corners, which lost me a lot of time in the second sector. I made small mistakes at turns 4 and 6 and ended up 18th fastest, which was my worst qualifying result of the year."

"The weather on race day was appalling. When it rains in Brazil, it really pours. Luckily the weather eased before the start because there was a moment when I thought there might not be a Brazilian Grand Prix this year because the track was completely waterlogged. The FIA drivers' parade was cancelled due the rain, which was sad because I wanted to see all the fans close up - especially the guys from Belo Horizonte!"

"The re-surfacing work that has been carried out on the track drained well, except at the exit of turn 3 where there were two rivers running across the track. It was very difficult and the only way through them was to be off the throttle. I had several big moments there, but luckily managed to keep the car pointing forward."

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.
"Unless you've raced in the rain yourself, it's difficult to imagine how bad the visibility can be. I guess it's like driving a road car in the rain with your windscreen wipers switched off - you can see absolutely nothing. Often during the race I had to steer the car by using the edges of the track for guidance."

"At least we gathered a lot of data during the race, so we have plenty of information to evaluate before the next race at Imola - the first race of the European season. Prior to then we have a four-day test at Paul Ricard, where we are trying out lots of new bits for Imola, which I'm very excited about. You have to look forwards in this business and, even though Brazil was disappointing, Imola is now the only thing that matters."

"We already tested there in February, so it's not a new track to me. I can get straight down to business on Friday morning and, hopefully, get a good result, although finishing the race is the priority for the whole Panasonic Toyota Racing team."


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