The Panasonic Toyota Racing team has slipped further behind in the battle for fifth place in the constructors' championship following the Italian Grand Prix today, after both Cristiano da Matta and Oliver Panis were forced to retire.

da Matta was the first to go, after a rear tyre failure on the approach to the Parabolica put him out after just three laps.

The Brazilian was going in excess of 200 mph at the time, but luckily he spun off into the gravel trap making the incident that could have been serious at a different point on the track, look completely harmless.

"I didn't have a great start but I recovered my position and everything was running okay, so being forced to stop is a real shame. All of a sudden, I felt a big vibration at the rear and I started to lose the car straight away," explained the 2002 CART champion. "At this stage we are not a hundred percent sure what happened, but most likely, I picked up some carbon fibre debris after an incident on the start-finish line."

Panis was also forced out in the sister TF103, the Frenchman running strongly until a dislodged bearing in the brake balance bar forced him out of the 53-lap race on lap 35.

"I had a fabulous start and was up to sixth on the first lap. Marc Gene got past me, but I continued to run well in the points," said Panis, "We put a lot of fuel in on at my first pitstop and we were having a good race. Unfortunately shortly after the second stop, the brake pedal went completely to the floor and I had to stop in the garage. It has been another encouraging weekend, and we have demonstrated that we have the potential to score points. We now have to look ahead to the next race in Indianapolis with this as our target."

Ove Andersson, Toyota's team boss was understandably disappointed, as this is only the third time this year that neither TF103 has been classified in a grand prix.

"A very unfortunate outcome to what could have been a good result for Panasonic Toyota Racing," said Andersson, "What happened to Cristiano is a pure racing incident and could have happened to anybody. Olivier was running well and was looking good to score some good points, but the car developed a terminal problem with the brakes. Again, I think the car has shown the capability to score points, but all we can do now is to look towards the final two races in Indianapolis and Suzuka to see if we have some better luck."

 

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