Panasonic Toyota Racing driver Olivier Panis talks about the United States Grand Prix, retiring, and this weekend's final round in Japan - the team's home race...

"Although the United States Grand Prix itself turned out to be a strong disappointment for the whole Panasonic Toyota Racing team, we were once again able to demonstrate the true competitiveness of our car. The TF103 may not have been strong at every race, but I think we have shown that whenever everything comes together, it can be very competitive.

"The layout of the Indianapolis track played to the strengths of the car but I think that Saturday qualifying was also one of the few qualifying sessions of the year where everything worked perfectly. We have worked hard all season to improve the TF103. There have been new engine specifications, new aero bits and lots of progress with our Michelin tyres and my third place on the grid at Indianapolis was reward for everyone's efforts.

"We know that we constantly have to improve in all areas, which is why I have already put the disappointment of not finishing the last race behind me and am fully motivated for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix. It is not only the home race for Toyota, but also for many of our sponsors, so we are determined to put on a good show for everyone.

"I think our technical package should be competitive at Suzuka. We have a new specification engine for the race, as well as various new aerodynamic parts, so I go there with high hopes.

"From a driving point of view, Suzuka is a great challenge. There is just about every corner you could ask for: slow corners, off-camber corners, long straights, fast changes of direction (which suit my driving style) and, in a way, the track reminds me of Spa.

"The atmosphere is also fantastic because the Japanese fans are very enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. They invariably start filling the grandstands early in the morning and stay there until late at night throughout the race weekend. I am sure it will be a great excitement for Cristiano and myself to compete in our first Suzuka race for Toyota with all the Japanese fans around.

"Cristiano [da Matta] and I arrived in Japan last weekend - one whole week before the Grand Prix even starts - as we have lots of events during the days leading up to the race. On Sunday, we were at the Megaweb (the biggest Toyota showroom in the world) to perform demo runs of the TF103 in front of the Japanese Toyota fans, which is great motivation for the race and my mind is already set on achieving the best possible performance on the track for them, for the team and for me.

"Suzuka is also where the close battle for fifth place in the Constructors' Championship will be resolved. We are currently lying in eighth position, but we're only five points away from fifth, so I will push hard for us to obtain that position, however our primary target remains as it has been all year: to qualify in the top 10 and finish in the points."

Olivier Panis.



Loading Comments...