Panasonic Toyota Racing driver Olivier Panis talks about the Hungarian Grand Prix, retiring, testing at Monza, and this weekend's round in Italy...

"After the disappointment of the last race in Hungary, I am hopeful that we will return to form at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

"Our TF103 race car was quite competitive during the Hungarian Grand Prix, but we were not able to pick up any points. The car is normally not at its best at slow tracks like the Hungaroring, so we thought prior to going to the race that it was going to be a difficult weekend, but we actually got the car working well. Qualifying in the top ten for the eleventh race this season and Cristiano [da Matta] setting the fifth fastest lap of the race demonstrated our real performance.

"Monza is a completely different kind of track to the Hungaroring, with long straights, high speeds and heavy braking points. Where the Hungaroring is one of the slowest tracks on the calendar, Monza is the fastest track of the year. We can reach top speeds of more than 330kph during the lap, which leads to a different challenge during the race.

"We had a productive three-day test at Monza last week, where we carried on the work that I started at a test there in June. We tried various new parts on the car and did a lot of set-up work on the car, so we feel quite well prepared for the race. However, all of the teams tested at the track last week and ran different programmes, so we won't get a full picture of where we stand until after free practice on Friday.

"Unlike every other track in F1, we run a single plane rear wing at Monza, which gives us a much higher top speed. You have to set-up the car around getting the highest speed you can at the end of the straights because, if you don't do that, you risk being overtaken in the race, which is not what we want! So we run these small rear wings in order to minimise aerodynamic drag.

"The biggest problem with running the small rear wing is that, because we have less downforce on the car, it can make the car quite unstable under braking. This is why you often see cars locking brakes under braking, missing braking points or - worse still - spinning. But you have to understand that it is very difficult to slow the car from such high speeds, especially when the driver is subjected to loads of more than 4g.

"Braking is not only a question of pushing as hard as you can on the left pedal because we also have to be careful not to overheat the brakes over a race distance. Cooling them sufficiently is one of the biggest challenges for the engineers because, if you open the brake ducts too much, you risk the brakes cooling too much and not working properly. But if you don't cool them enough, then they will overheat.

"Another big factor to being quick at Monza is the engine. You need lots of horsepower to push you down the straights and I am confident that we have a strong engine in the RVX-03.

"My aims for this weekend remain the same as they have done all year: to qualify in the top ten and to finish in the points. If we can do that, I'll be happy."

Olivier Panis.



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