Toyota's Olivier Panis reflects on the European Grand Prix Q: What do you think of the NÃ¼rburgring track? "Although, the NÃ¼rburgring is not one of my favourite tracks but I still quite enjoy driving it. For the race it's quite difficult and...
Toyota's Olivier Panis reflects on the European Grand Prix
Q: What do you think of the N?rburgring track?
"Although, the N?rburgring is not one of my favourite tracks but I still quite enjoy driving it. For the race it's quite difficult and overtaking is hard. Everybody thinks it's a slow speed circuit but it's actually not. The first part of the lap is quite slow but after that it's a medium-high speed circuit and you have to find a compromise mechanically and aerodynamically. It's not easy to find the right balance for the whole lap."
Q: After Monaco, did you expect to score points at the European Grand Prix?
"We entered the N?rburgring weekend on the back of the four points we achieved in Monaco, but we knew that the European GP would offer us a difficult challenge to score points. Nevertheless, we just got down to business on Friday and tried to set a solid base for the weekend."
Q: What were your initial reactions after Friday practice?
"Friday is all about tyre selection, which is actually more critical at the N?rburgring than at most other tracks. We eventually decided that the softer compound worked best for us, despite a high rate of degradation. I was a little bit frustrated in the second practice session because Bas Leinders in the Minardi almost drove into me on my final run with new tyres, preventing me from setting a representative time."
Q: You qualified in the top ten on Saturday afternoon. Was that a surprise?
"Both me and Cristiano did a good job in qualifying. We opted to run with enough fuel to stop on lap 10 in the race, which was not as aggressive as we have been this season, so from tenth I thought it would be possible to score points. The grid positions were pretty representative of the car's current performance, and my time was only 0.7s from Sato's second place, so I think that is encouraging for later in the season."
Q: You got a good start in the race up to eighth, but then you fell back a bit. What was the main cause of the lack of pace?
"To be honest, I was very pleased with my start. I took a bit of risk heading into the first corner and made my way through in eighth place. I was able to keep up with the leading group for some laps, but then the tyres dropped off a lot and I lost momentum. It was at that point when I realised we were going to struggle."
Q: Was the tyre degradation the only problem you encountered?
"The tyre degradation was really the main cause of our problems throughout the race. The performance drop-off was quite high and we struggled to have the consistency to keep some of the cars on two-stop strategies behind us. And with Nick Heidfeld I was unlucky, because I got a blue flag to warn me that Michael Schumacher was coming, and had to back off at a critical point. That cost me a couple of seconds and meant that I lost track position."
Q: What are the next steps for Panasonic Toyota Racing?
"We know that we need a quicker race car and the whole team will be working tirelessly towards the updated package that we have coming later in the season. For now, we just have to keep pushing. We have the back-to-back races in Canada and the US coming up, and I am testing for two days in Monza this week to prepare as well as we can for those races. I have to repeat that the whole team is doing a great job in the difficult circumstances, and I am confident that together we will see some results coming soon."