Toyota replace da Matta with Zonta 05 Aug 2004
Toyota has announced that Cristiano da Matta will not be driving in races for the team with immediate effect. He will be replaced for the rest of the season by test driver Ricardo Zonta.
According to a statement on the team's website da Matta "will continue to be employed as a Toyota driver for the remainder of the year and could consequently be called upon to partake in any driving or marketing-related activities for the Panasonic Toyota Racing Team".
According to Team Principal, Tsutomu Tomita, da Matta has been dropped to give Zonta a full race trial with a view to next season.
"We revised our original plans after we reviewed the results of the last three Grands Prix", Tomita said, "Ricardo Zonta consistently performed very well, as indeed he also did in the first half of the 2004 season. We believe it is fair to offer Ricardo the chance to show his potential in full race conditions before we enter into the final step of our driver evaluation for the 2005 season."
Zonta will drive alongside Olivier Panis, who is confirmed for the rest of 2004 but not, at present, beyond that. Toyota have only got one 2005 race seat to fill after it was confirmed that Ralf Schumacher will be driving for the team from next season.
"We decided to retain Olivier Panis as a race driver for the rest of this season based on the fact that he is the driver who has secured the team's best race result of the year so far," explained Tomita, speaking of Panis's fifth-placed finish at Indianapolis.
Brazilian, Ricardo Zonta raced for the British American Racing team in 1999 and 2000, then moved to Jordan in 2001 where he competed in two races. He has been Toyota's test and reserve driver since 2003. He has competed in 31 Grands Prix and scored 3 Drivers' Championship points, his last full race drive being the 2001 German Grand Prix.