Panis reflects on Montreal

Toyota's Olivier Panis looks back over the Canadian Grand Prix weekend Q: What are your personal views on Montreal? Olivier Panis: I like the place - Montreal and the people. We always get many, many spectators every day and they are so...

Toyota's Olivier Panis looks back over the Canadian Grand Prix weekend

Q: What are your personal views on Montreal?

Olivier Panis: I like the place - Montreal and the people. We always get many, many spectators every day and they are so clearly enthusiastic. That always makes for a good atmosphere. This year, with Jacques Villeneuve not driving, I think many people suspected that the numbers and the enthusiasm would drop, but it wasn't the case at all. The Canadians like their Formula 1 and I think most of it goes back to Jacques' father, Gilles, who was such a hero to them. It was Gilles who won the first Grand Prix on the Ile Notre-Dame track back in 1978.

Olivier Panis.
Photo by Toyota Racing.

Q: And what about the circuit itself?

OP: Almost every year we seem to have a different kind of race here. It is quite a difficult place from which to recover a car that has had a problem, and there is also a tight first corner, so you often have Safety Car periods. Actually, that's one factor you also bear in mind when you are thinking about strategy. Even if the mathematics show that more stops is the optimum way, you always have to think about the likelihood of interruptions. It's almost a race apart, a bit like Monaco in a way. Except that you can pass, of course!

Q: Your accident here in 1997, when you broke your legs must have been the worst accident of your career?

OP: It was the worst accident I have had, yes. I've had some big accidents in F1 but fortunately without injury. That was actually caused by a broken rear wishbone and I could do absolutely nothing. It was Turn 4, the one that is flat-out and you really don't want anything to break! The car was on three wheels and I was just a passenger.

Q: Do you have any repercussions from that or are your legs completely okay?

OP: They are completely normal. I can do everything I did before - football, tennis, everything. I didn't damage any articulation and so there is no stiffness in winter or anything like that. It's like the kind of clean break that you have on skis. I was lucky. The worst thing about it was that it happened in a season when I was running so strongly and fighting for podiums at almost every race. I even led in Argentina that year. But, c'est la vie, as we say in French!

Q: How did you prepare for Montreal?

OP: I did a very good test in Monza, which is also low downforce, so excellent preparation for Montreal. Everybody at the factory is working so hard to try to have the new car ready for Hockenheim next month, so things are moving in the right direction all the time.

Q: How does the car feel on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve?

OP: Not bad, to be honest. If you look at my qualifying time, I was just four hundredths of a second behind Cristiano and with a heavier fuel load, so given the strategy that we took for the race (involving just two pit stops), it gave me a tough task in qualifying but I did a good lap to get 13th place. The strategy looked like a good option here because the tyres looked so consistent on longer runs.

Q: What are the main differences you feel on low downforce tracks like Montreal?

OP: The car has less stability and feels more skittish under braking. More loose. Over the bumps it moves much more and the grip levels feel lazier, with the car sliding more. This is the biggest problem in qualifying. You want to push but if you lock up you can easily lose half a second. It's not easy, especially when you have a lot of fuel on board. You need to be very precise. But I managed that and I was actually very pleased with my lap.

Q: It seems as if the reversion to the old style qualifying has been agreed for Silverstone now. What are your thoughts?

OP: I think it's better for us, and also for the spectators, because everyone will understand the grid. Because at the moment, when you are 13th, you can't explain to people: ah, but I have 20 kilos more fuel than someone else. For us it is not fun to qualify with fuel. Qualifying needs to be qualifying.

Q: How was the race? More bad luck and then the disqualification?

OP: Unfortunately yes. There was a lot of confusion at the first corner. The Jaguars and a McLaren were involved and I lost time. I did all that I could for the rest of the race and then came the team's problem with the brake ducts. That was unfortunate but we can't change it and I feel sorry for Cristiano and the rest of the team about losing a point.

Q: What will you do between Montreal and Indianapolis?

OP: I will stay close to Montreal, a nice place about an hour away, with a lake, jet skis, quad bikes and all the crazy things! I will stay there for three days with some friends and just train and have some rest before flying down to Indianapolis for my 150th grand prix.

-toyota-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Olivier Panis , Jacques Villeneuve , Gilles Villeneuve
Teams McLaren , Toyota Racing