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FIA Press Conference - Panis and da Matta 01 Jul 2004

Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota with his HANS device.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Preparations, Magny Cours, France, 1 July 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

With Toyota drivers Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta.

Q: Olivier, your 150th Grand Prix at Indianapolis and you scored points. That must have been very satisfactory for you.
Olivier PANIS:
Ah well, I’m sure that the Indianapolis for us and for me was really good. One hundred and fifty Grands Prix is good, it’s a number, it’s good to have it but for me the most important thing is the result at Indianapolis. We looked really competitive all weekend. We managed the race very well, for everything with the many incidents that we had, and to finish fifth is good for the team and myself.

Q: What did you learn from Indianapolis, which direction do you push in now?
OP:
We knew from the Grand Prix before Indianapolis that we were qualifying very well but we have some problems with the rear tyre degradation, more in comparison to everyone else speaking to Michelin. I think Indianapolis helped us a lot, because the tyres looked really, really competitive for us and also saved us with the problem that we have, and that’s why we were very quick during the race. I think I did the fourth quickest lap time, which means something, 0.6s behind Ferrari which means we are on the pace. That’s it really. I think we have a good compromise mechanically and aerodynamically in Indianapolis and we managed to score the result. It was really good.

Q: Can that translate to here though?
OP:
Well, I think we find some direction to set up the car, particularly on the front to help the rear tyres and I hope it’s working here as well.

Q: Speeds in Formula One are coming under scrutiny at the moment, not necessarily because of what happened at Indianapolis. What are your feelings about the speeds in Formula One at the moment?
OP:
If I feel that Formula One is too quick then I will stay at home.

Q: But you don’t think it’s too quick for the circuits?
OP:
Ah well, all the time we are speaking after accidents. I’m sure Ralf’s accident was very bad, I feel bad for him, but I think it looks OK; this is the most important thing. But all the time we are talking about speed after accidents. I think that what we did with the FIA and all the drivers was really good because we improved the safety of the circuits, we improved the safety of the cars, it’s fantastic, but we need to push for that and we need to continue. But at the end of the day Formula One is dangerous. That’s what I feel.

Q: So you don’t feel the cars need slowing down?
OP:
Of course we need to do that one day, but for me, we need to have quicker cars in Formula One because that’s why we’re here, why we like Formula One and everybody else too and also we need to have some fighting, some overtaking even with drivers who perhaps take some a little bit of a risk. But this is Formula One for me. If you need to make a rule for speed, a rule for overtaking, a rule for everything, there’s no point at the end of the day. This is my feeling. Somebody might not agree with me, but this is what I feel.

Q: What about your own future? We’ve asked you this before, but has anything changed since we last asked?
OP:
No, well for me, I’m so motivated and determined. I’m working really hard with the team; both of us have been working really hard with the team for two years. Now I want to profit from the result, which is why I am continuing to push really hard and preparing for next year.

Q: When you both read all these stories about who is coming to the team, do you take them seriously or do you just ignore them?
OP:
I just say welcome to them.
Cristiano da Matta: Well, it’s the type of thing that you cannot do anything about. Because you’re inside the team, sometimes we have a clue… many of the things we read in the press are all… sometimes they make no sense and some of the other ones we know make some sense. But obviously we cannot get too worried about it because at the end of the day it’s not our decision, all we can do is do all we know, to do our best, to drive the car, to focus and to keep on trying to do the best job we can. If you want to stay with the team, this is how we are going to do it, not being worried about rumours and internet websites saying a couple of different things. We just have to focus on the work.

Q: Your preview comments for this race suggest that the car lacks downforce and perhaps that’s what the advantage was at Indianapolis and perhaps could be the disadvantage here?
CdM:
Yeah, I think at the Indianapolis as well as here… well, that our car lacks downforce isn’t news, that we’ve known since the beginning of the year. I think what helped us at Indianapolis is that it’s definitely the type of track where there is a long straight so maybe not having as much downforce as some of our competitors didn’t hurt us as much as it could hurt at some other places. And also Indianapolis is a very smooth track so our car was running well there because of that also. We have some difficulties over bumps and kerbs and this kind of thing, so here, on the one hand, the downforce could hurt us a little bit, but on the other hand we could have the expectation to do well here and maybe to score points as a team, because the track is so smooth, it’s the type of situation that kind of suits our car a little bit more than other types of tracks. So obviously here and at Indianapolis, we had both things helping us. Here we will have only one of them but still I think our target should be to be in the points at the end of the race. I think we need a little bit of luck to get that but that’s what I have to focus on.

Q: Is downforce what the new car is going to be bringing?
CdM:
Well, the biggest difference about the new car and the old car – there are many different things but everything is towards getting more downforce and less drag, because we know that the number one problem with our car is aerodynamics so the number one problem we’re focusing on right now is increasing downforce and obviously lowering the drag level which is too high at the moment, so let’s see how it comes out.

Q: What about the fact that qualifying isn’t being changed after all; what do you feel about that? Were you looking forward to the new qualifying format?
CdM:
Well, I hear all the drivers talking so much that it was so much fun to qualify with low fuel and many different attempts and you could really abuse it. Right now, obviously we can abuse it but obviously only to a certain limit because you only have one try and if you get it wrong you end up way far back on the grid. It was more or less our type of racing. Every type of driver during his whole car, that’s the way qualifying is anyway. So I was kind of looking forward to it but in a certain way, for the teams that aren’t doing so well right now this other type of qualifying that was being suggested to replace the one lap qualifying would define more the quicker cars and the slower cars, and you wouldn’t have more the surprise factor that this one lap qualifying brings to us, and this could be not very beneficial for us because sometimes you can try to play some different games to qualify: maybe a little bit lower fuel level to be a little bit further up the grid, try different strategies. So I think for the race overall, single lap qualifying is better. Maybe from a fun point of view, maybe the other qualifying was a bit more fun but it’s not fun when you’re qualifying and then on race day you’re starting further back. So it goes both ways, you know.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) I would like to have Olivier’s opinions on the qualifying system?
OP:
Well, for me, I know both systems from the past. I like both. I like to qualify with low fuel, for me, as Cristiano says, I feel it’s more fun, it’s easier to use the car at 100 percent and with the new rules that we were talking about, I feel we also have more chance, even if you have traffic, but for me, I don’t complain about the one that we have right now. One thing I am very surprised about is that everybody pushed in one direction, and then two weeks afterwards everybody went back again and nobody has really taken a decision. This is what has shocked me a little bit, but it looks like this time.

Q: (Heinz Pruller – Kroenen Zeitung) Gentlemen, you have the new car in Hockenheim presumably. Can you tell when you test it for the first time and what’s your impression?
CdM:
Well, we’ll be testing in Jerez the week after Silverstone for the first time, but we’re only going to have the new car, the new parts but the new aero pieces are not going to be ready until the weekend of Hockenheim, so it’s just going to be a shakedown for the new chassis which has a couple of different things but the aero pieces which is the area where we are expecting the big gain, we are not going to have it until the week after Silverstone Jerez test.

Q: It’s going to be a bit of a surprise, a bit of a learning curve for you…
OP:
Yeah, this is true, but I think the mechanics of the car are mostly the same. From the reliability point of view it’s OK. If you put on the aero kits, there’s a downforce inefficiency. You don’t really need to set up the car for that – a little bit, it’s just the speed. I hope so. No, I’m looking forward to that because everybody in the factory has put in a lot of effort to produce the car but we need to wait and see in Hockenheim.

Q: (Heinz Pruller – Kroenen Zeitung) Excuse me but an Austrian question for the start at Indianapolis. You were both around Klien when there was his first lap accident; can you tell me what happened?
OP:
I was in front of Cristiano, I didn’t see anything behind me. I don’t know. I have no idea. But he crashed into Coulthard in front of me in Canada, I was behind that, but I have no idea in Indianapolis.
CdM: The only thing I felt was a hit from behind from him as I started to brake to go into turn two, I just felt the hit from behind, but I couldn’t say exactly what happened from his point of view.

Q: (Heinz Pruller – Kroenen Zeitung) He thinks you slowed down suddenly.
CdM:
Well, I was running beside Olivier and I had to give him room to go into the corner, otherwise I was going to T-bone him into turn two and obviously I didn’t want to do that, so I had to slow down to give him room to go into the corner and obviously I had to back off a little bit earlier, but it’s the type of thing that happens at every start, it’s the type of thing that you have to expect. You cannot go into turn two on the first lap of the race as you go into a qualifying lap, for example. Obviously you have to expect things to happen. Some people are maybe going to have to back off a bit sooner so you have to be prepared for those things.