Toyota's Olivier Panis looks back over the Monaco Grand Prix Q: Championship points must be a very satisfying outcome at Monaco? "For the team to score four championship points at Monaco is definitely a satisfying result. For me personally, I...
Toyota's Olivier Panis looks back over the Monaco Grand Prix
Q: Championship points must be a very satisfying outcome at Monaco?
"For the team to score four championship points at Monaco is definitely a satisfying result. For me personally, I was pleased to finish in eighth place, especially after stalling at the start of the race and then having to begin from the pitlane. Cristiano and I both had our dramas during the race but it is great for the team to score points with both cars. It will keep up everyone's spirits and motivation after what has not been a good start to the season."
Q: You seemed to be in trouble with lack of grip in qualifying?
"I again did a very good qualifying lap and I think we are getting 100% out of the car that we have. The engineers and mechanics did their job well but the car is just not quick enough for anything better. I know it is a bit frustrating for everyone and a shame, but we have to keep up strong enthusiasm and look forward to the updated car that will come by Hockenheim."
Q: Why did you encounter such problems with grip in Monte Carlo?
"Monaco is a high downforce circuit and the downforce we have right now is not enough for this type of track. Our car does not like so much the low speed corners and the traction is not fantastic. I'm not saying that it is bad, but it is all related to the lack of downforce. If you have a lot of downforce you have more grip, more traction, you can run the kerbs better, everything."
Q: How do you prepare for a race when there appear to be these limitations?
"Well, what I like about the Toyota team is that nobody gives up. All we can do is to get the best out of what we have and keep pushing. At Monaco you never know what can happen and the race proved that. You couldn't say that 6th and 8th positions from 13th and 15th on the grid were expected!"
Q: Would you say that Monaco 1996 is your best racing memory?
"Monaco 1996 was definitely one of my best memories because I won. I think every F1 driver dreams of winning at Monaco and I have done it. It is one of my favourite races and that year was good obviously, but 1997, when I also had a good car -- that was enjoyable too. I was third in the championship that year before my accident. I had a big battle with Giancarlo Fisichella in the wet and finished fourth. This year's race was actually the first time that I have scored a point at Monaco since 1997."
Q: Was there anything you did specifically to prepare for Monte Carlo?
"There was not really one specific thing that we looked closely at or prepared in more detail for Monaco. In Saturday morning practice I was struggling a little bit and didn't feel too confident with the car - and at Monaco you have to feel 100% confident if you consider that even a small mistake can end your race. I just sat down with Mike Gascoyne and my engineers and went back to the basics we know and tried to do my best. Ultimately, everyone did a good job and I was pleased with what we subsequently achieved in qualifying."
Q: How big a step forward could be made mid season?
"I think that if we look ahead to when the TF104B will be ready around Hockenheim in July, a significant step could be made with the downforce levels, definitely. I hope that it will be a big step, which is why maybe we have the car a little bit late compared with what we expected, but I think it is better to wait a bit longer to have a bigger step than to have the car earlier with not enough progress. For now, we must do what we did in Monaco, get on with the job we have to do and pick up points if they come our way."
Q: Do you like the atmosphere of Monte Carlo?
"I love the atmosphere in Monaco. It is one of the races where you are closest to the spectators. Everyone enjoys it, you can hear people calling your name and there is a whole intimate feeling."
Q: Whenever you see in-car shots from Monaco, it always looks so quick because of the proximity of the buildings, even though it is the slowest circuit. Do you get the same impression in the car?
"The feeling is different when you are inside the car, because you are so low and you have these barriers all around you. You feel that you are in the city and you notice all the people - obviously not when you are attacking on your qualifying lap but when you are on your out lap or your in lap you see all the people with flags and all that kind of thing. It's a very unique place."
Q: But is the race itself a little frustrating, just sitting there?
"It can be a little bit frustrating, yes, because it is so difficult to overtake. In 1996 after a lot of problems, I overtook seven cars in the wet and then pit-stopped before everybody. When I was third I knew I still needed to push like hell and in that situation you take maximum risk. But if you are in the middle of the grid and you have a car to finish the race but not really to fight for a podium, you need to concentrate on making no mistakes and keeping going to get all the points you can. Look at Sunday, I had big brake problems, and worked on simply getting to the chequered flag because we knew there was a chance of scoring a point, and we did!"