New to Toyota for 2005 are race drivers Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher. The duo brings to Panasonic Toyota Racing a combined total of 257 grands prix experience. Alongside the team's test drivers Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta, Toyota can boast...
New to Toyota for 2005 are race drivers Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher. The duo brings to Panasonic Toyota Racing a combined total of 257 grands prix experience. Alongside the team's test drivers Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta, Toyota can boast one of the strongest, most experienced driver line-ups in the pitlane.
"Jarno is an extremely quick driver and always determined to prove his worth," enthuses Toyota president John Howett. "I am looking forward with enthusiasm to savour his trademark breathtaking qualifying laps in a Toyota. Like Jarno, Ralf has integrated into the team very smoothly. He has already demonstrated the pace and capability that has made him a proven race winner. Both will be a real asset to our team, but will undoubtedly place more pressure on us to perform in 2005."
Jarno Trulli was drafted into the race team for the two final grands prix of 2004 to allow the team to gain a headstart with its 2005 preparations. "I joined Panasonic Toyota Racing because I could see that it is a team with a huge potential," Trulli notes.
"I was lucky to be able to start at the Japanese Grand Prix and that helped me to settle in easily and gain valuable time ahead of 2005 preparations. Coming from the position we finished last season, I think it is realistic to expect us to move closer to the front, but let's take things step by step. Toyota has the mentality to make it to the top, but it will take time."
Ralf Schumacher had his first taste of a Toyota back in November 2004 at a test session in Barcelona and was immediately impressed with what he found: "Joining Panasonic Toyota Racing gives me the possibility to be in a team that's still young and up-and-coming," he says. "With that in mind, I was very impressed by the professional nature of the team operations when I arrived for the first post-season tests in November."
"Having the engine and the chassis built in the same factory is important because everyone is working together towards the same goal. The fact that the team is based in Germany is an additional plus point for me personally and I believe that all these things give us the perfect combination for our future success together."
Backing up Trulli and Schumacher strongly will be Frenchman Olivier Panis and Brazilian Ricardo Zonta, both of whom celebrate their third year with Panasonic Toyota Racing in 2005. Panis retired from racing towards the end of 2004, but signed a two-year deal to be the team's official third driver. Although his role will be directed on driving at test sessions throughout the season, Panis will also act as the Toyota's reserve driver at race weekends, replacing either Trulli or Schumacher in the eventuality that they cannot race.
"I am very excited and proud to continue the challenge with Toyota," Panis says. "I have a strong relationship with everyone and I am enjoying my new position in the test team. All the guys are professional and nice to work with, so we will be looking to significantly contribute to the development of the TF105 throughout the year."
Ricardo Zonta, meanwhile, will reprise the role he adopted in the first two-thirds of 2004, taking control of the third car in Friday free practice sessions at races. He will additionally assume an important testing function during the year. "It's a good opportunity for me," Zonta explains.
"I'll just be returning to the job I had before I was lucky enough to fill in for a few races last season. To drive the third car on the Fridays is very important. Everybody has a lot of respect for the guys that do it, because it is critical for how the race weekend goes. Panasonic Toyota Racing has become like a second family to me, and I intend to use my race and test experience to help take us further up the grid in 2005."