Panasonic Toyota Racing driver Olivier Panis talks about the Italian Grand Prix, retiring, and this weekend's round in the USA...

"The 2003 season is nearly finished and we are heading into the final two races of the year at Indianapolis and Suzuka in confident mood, hoping to redress the balance after two disappointing races in Hungary and Monza.

"You can never afford to lose good points scoring opportunities like we did in Italy a fortnight ago, but at this stage in the season - when the constructors championship is so tight - it is more frustrating than normal.

"We go to Indianapolis this weekend with a lot of useful information at our disposal because we had a productive test last week with the TF103s running at three different venues over four days.

"I did some aerodynamic work at Paul Ricard on Friday, Cristiano [da Matta] was busy on Tuesday and Wednesday working on Michelin tyre evaluation and running a new specification engine that we will use in Suzuka, whilst our third driver, Ricardo Zonta, completed a massive four-day test at Jerez, where he concentrated on more long-term development.

"While Cristiano and I carried out important work specifically for the US Grand Prix, I think Ricardo's test at Jerez was also crucial to our performance this weekend. The twisty middle section at Jerez is similar in layout to the infield at Indianapolis, so it is a good testing ground for the race.

"When you think about the logistics involved in running cars at three different locations around Europe over four days, that's a pretty impressive test programme. That is one of the reasons why Panasonic Toyota Racing is such a fantastic team: everyone is so committed to the job that I am convinced we will continue to move forward as a result.

"I really like racing at Indianapolis. The place has a lot of history and the atmosphere on race day is unlike anywhere else in Formula 1. The grandstands are huge and when they are full of people, it feels very special.

"The track is quite technical because car set-up is a constant battle between achieving maximum straightline speed, yet also being quick through the slow in-field section. In other words, you want no wing down the pitstraight, where we are flat-out for something like 17 seconds, but lots of wing and downforce through the corners.

"In a similar respect to Monza, we will ideally want to run more downforce in qualifying than the race, because we won't have to worry about being overtaken on Saturdays during single-lap qualifying. If we run too much wing in the race, we risk being overtaken into Turn 1, which is the main overtaking opportunity during the lap.

"As a team, we will be aiming to qualify in the top 10 and finish in the points, as has been our aim all year. There have been 14 races so far this year, and we have seen at least one TF103 in the top half of the grid on 12 occasions, so I will be surprised if we don't make the top 10 again this weekend and hopefully we will be able to add to our current 14 championship points total."

Olivier Panis.



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