Da Matta reflects on Monaco

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back on the Monaco race weekend "Monaco was a tough race weekend for Panasonic Toyota Racing. The TF103 suffered from a general lack of grip all round the circuit, which made it very difficult to improve the car.

Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks back on the Monaco race weekend

"Monaco was a tough race weekend for Panasonic Toyota Racing. The TF103 suffered from a general lack of grip all round the circuit, which made it very difficult to improve the car. But I have to admit that I had fewer problems in the race than my team-mate Olivier Panis, who I think did a fantastic job to bring the car home."

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.
"I was quite pleased to finish ninth because, after our poor qualifying performance on Thursday, I expected the remainder of my weekend to be worse than it turned out to be. The four teams that are currently in the leading championship positions - McLaren, Ferrari, BMW-Williams and Renault - have achieved such a high level of reliability this year that it is very difficult for the rest of us to score points. In Monaco we were next in line for points and I take some satisfaction from that."

"From a driving point of view, Monaco is a great challenge. I raced on a lot of street tracks in America, but none were as hard as this and, as a result, it took longer for me to learn than normal. Usually I do a short run - maybe three laps - during the first free practice session, then come into the pits and think about the track layout. In Monaco I tried something different: a longer run of about 10 laps, in the hope that my lap times would begin to improve immediately. It didn't work and that is why I struggled so much during Thursday's one-lap qualifying session when I set the slowest time."

"Friday is traditionally a day off in Monaco, but I still had plenty of PR and Marketing activities to keep me busy! In the evening, the team also hosted sponsor and Toyota guests on the boat Nafisa in the Swimming Pool section of the Monaco harbour, with the help of our sponsor partner, Ebbon-Dacs. There was a tremendous spirit among those who enjoyed the music, dancing and relaxation and it was nice of chief executive officer Mr Jameel for the use of his boat! It is great to realise that we are supported by such people."

"What free time I had on Friday, I spent thinking about the track and I felt much better about it come Saturday morning practice. I got quicker and quicker throughout the morning and I was very pleased with the time I set in second qualifying, which put me 10th on the grid. All of that improvement came from me, not the car, because I was pushing a lot harder than I had been on Thursday."

Cristiano da Matta.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.
"In the race it was a relief not to have any of the start-line dramas that I had in Austria two weeks ago. Monaco is very narrow, so it is not the kind of place where you want to be left stranded with other cars scrambling to avoid you. As it was, the launch control worked perfectly and I almost overtook Mark Webber into Turn 1."

"For the opening few laps I was able to stay with Webber and Jacques Villeneuve, but they then began to edge away from me as the fuel levels came down. It was frustrating, but at least it meant I didn't have any traffic problems! My car was pretty consistent in the opening two stints, but I struggled in the last stint because I didn't have a third set of scrubbed tyres, which made the car's handling worse than it had been."

"This week I am testing at Silverstone for two days, which I am looking forward to. I haven't been there for several years and I always enjoyed driving there when I raced in the British Formula 3 Championship in 1995. We have some development parts to try too, which we hope will make a big difference to our performance."

"I then fly back to Brazil on Wednesday night, where I'm going to get a long weekend at home with my family in Belo Horizonte prior to heading up to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix. Unlike Monaco, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is not a new track for me because I raced there in Cart last year, so I'm really looking forward to it."

-toyota-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mark Webber , Olivier Panis , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Toyota Racing