Toyota's Olivier Panis looks back over the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend Q: Did you enjoy the summer break? Olivier Panis on the starting grid. Photo by Brousseau Photo. Olivier Panis: After Hockenheim, it was good to be able to...
Toyota's Olivier Panis looks back over the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend
Q: Did you enjoy the summer break?
Olivier Panis: After Hockenheim, it was good to be able to spend some time off doing sports and generally relaxing. To be honest, I think it is the other people in the team, who are working flat-out every day, who need the time off more than us drivers. The extra races in the calendar this year, Bahrain and China, have condensed the schedule and brought even more logistical pressure. And, as well as the racing programme this year, we have had the TF104B development to concentrate on.
Q: What do you think of Hungaroring?
OP: The Hungaroring is a different kind of track to most, in fact as a driver it is a great physical challenge, as there is never really any time to relax in the cockpit. The temperatures are usually hot as well, so I am pleased that I finished the weekend still feeling in good form.
Q: What are the particular characteristics of the track?
OP: There are factors that make the Hungaroring very similar to Monaco in terms of its track characteristics. We run the cars with maximum downforce and overtaking is just about as difficult. It is possible into the first corner but it still requires a bit of luck, so qualifying becomes even more important.
Q: What is the biggest problem to overcome at the track?
OP: The biggest problem we face, particularly on the opening day, is that the circuit is always dusty. Obviously, once more and more rubber is laid down, the track improves, but Friday is when we evaluate our tyres, so there is an additional element to study. We have to work out how much of our performance is down to the tyre and how much is down to the track getting quicker. That is true of everywhere we go to a certain extent but in Hungary the dust makes it even harder. It also means that only one racing line develops over the course of the weekend, adding to the already-difficult overtaking problem.
Q: What about Panasonic Toyota Racing's performance in Hungary?
OP: I was very happy to be fifth quickest overall after Friday's practice sessions, but, in qualifying, we went slower than we had in free practice. There was a bit more wind when myself and Ricardo were on the track and that could have contributed to our drop-off in performance. People have the perception that fast corners are all-important because of the speed, but it is actually slow corners where you can lose more time. With a low grip surface and the understeering nature of the track, a few unexpected gusts of wind can hurt you quite a lot. Thirteenth place on the grid for me, and 15th for Ricardo, was not what we had planned.
Q: Do you think the qualifying results dictated your race?
OP: Normally, where you start in Hungary is where you finish, because of the overtaking difficulties, so our qualifying results dictated our race performance. I got a reasonable start in the race and was almost alongside Mark Webber heading down the start-finish straight. Then, I saw the incident at the first corner and I had to stay wide to keep out of trouble, which put me on the dirty part of the track and I lost places.
Q: How do you make up positions in those circumstances?
OP: Battling at the back of the field is very frustrating, especially when you know that you are capable of going much quicker than the cars in front. All we can really do is concentrate, make sure you don't make any errors and hope that the excellent work of the pitcrew can move you ahead. The team did another very professional job in Hungary to enable me to finish 11th.
Q: How was your race pace?
OP: The pace of the TF104B in the race was pretty good, so it was a shame that I didn't really have the opportunity to show it. I was caught up by backmarkers in the first part of the race, and it was only in the second half when I had a clear track. By that point, though, I had to contend with blue flags, which cost me even more time.
Q: What did you feel about the TF104B in Hungary?
OP: We know that the car is a good step forward, as we proved in Friday and Saturday's practice sessions, when we were easily within the top 10. Unfortunately, I was again prevented from showing what I can do with the TF104B. I have my sights firmly set on the top eight in the remaining five races of the season.
Q: Are you looking forward to Spa?
OP:</B> I must say I'm delighted to be going back to the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa is absolutely my favourite circuit and I think it is the best we have in Formula 1. I was upset to see the race taken off the calendar last year and I think it should suit the characteristics of our car. There will certainly be plenty of opportunity for us to make use of our strong engine. And passing should not be a problem. We are overdue some championship points, and I certainly plan to score some in Spa - both me and the team have worked hard this year and we deserve a strong result.