Toyota driver Mika Salo shares his thoughts on what he's been up to lately and looks forward to Imola. "Two points finishes in three races. What a mega start for the Panasonic Toyota Racing team! To me, the result in Brazil was more significant...
Toyota driver Mika Salo shares his thoughts on what he's been up to lately and looks forward to Imola.
"Two points finishes in three races. What a mega start for the Panasonic Toyota Racing team! To me, the result in Brazil was more significant than the one in Australia because we achieved it with most of the top runners still in the race. It wasn't just luck.
Consider this as well: the TF102 that we ran at Interlagos was in an almost identical specification to the one that we used in Australia. So, while the other teams have developed their cars a lot in the six weeks since the start of the season, we haven't developed so much, yet we are still relatively competitive.
Now that the cars have returned to Europe we are stepping up our development programme. I'm told by Gustav Brunner and Norbert Kreyer that we're quite a long way from optimising our package, so I expect the rate of development to be quite fast in the coming weeks. Of course, everyone else will be moving forward too, but we have every reason to be encouraged.
Since Brazil I've been on holiday, but Allan McNish has been behind the wheel at Valencia, where seven other teams joined Panasonic Toyota Racing for a three-day test. Allan worked on electronics, tyre tests, as well as running in some engine modifications which we hope to use at Imola.
We still have a bit of work to do with our electronic systems because our launch control isn't yet up to speed, and nor is our traction control. But we have the necessary people to get it right, so it's just a question of time.
I flew straight from Sao Paulo to Finland, where I picked up my wife Noriko and our baby Max, and we then went to Lugano in Switzerland, where we have a house. It's in the beautiful Italian-speaking part of the country and we all enjoy it there. It's good to have the opening three long-haul races out the way - Australia, Malaysia and Brazil - because I don't like leaving Noriko for such long periods of time. It's especially hard on her because she doesn't have me around to share nappy duties!
As for Imola, I think we'll go well. I finished sixth the last time I raced there in 2000, and there is always a good atmosphere because the Italian fans - the "tifosi" - are completely mad for Ferrari. Luckily, I get a good reception because I raced for 'their' team in '99.
We tested at Imola last year with the TF101, although only Allan drove. This prior knowledge should help us here more than at most tracks because few teams get to test at Imola because of local noise restrictions.
It is important to have a car that is good under braking and the TF102 is exactly that. Imola is also the second and last track (Interlagos being the first) on the calendar that runs in an anti-clockwise direction.
So I'm looking to it and nothing less than a top 10 qualifying position and a top six race finish will do. We proved in Brazil that we could do it, so I'm now expecting that at every race."