Ricardo Zonta made a surprise return to Formula One this year, joining the Panasonic Toyota Racing team as their 'third' driver. The Brazilian had previously raced for BAR and Jordan, here he talks about his year testing with the Cologne based squad, what he thinks of the TF103 and a lot, lot more...

Q:
Ricardo [Zonta], how would you assess the Toyota TF103 - it's strengths and weaknesses?

Ricardo Zonta:
Compared to the old car the TF103 is a big improvement. We improved the aerodynamics a lot. There are still some problems with traction and pitch sensitivity but it has been improved a lot throughout the season. Traction is really down to suspension improvement and corner entry stability is more down to aerodynamics.

Q:
Has the car achieved what you thought or did you expect better results?

RZ:
If you look at some circuits like Indianapolis or Barcelona, we were very competitive, but at other places it was difficult to find a direction. Perhaps we need to work more toward finding the best balance for each individual Grand Prix, because sometimes it's good and sometimes it's not. From a results point of view, I think we did very well in qualifying, but for one reason or another, we just could not pick up as many points as we would have liked.

Q:
Was the team's strong performance at the Spanish GP - where they qualified sixth and 13th, and finished sixth - the result of a lot of testing at the Barcelona circuit?

RZ:
We do a lot of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya and I think all testing work is beneficial regardless of whether it is successful or not. There is no substitute for mileage and data, however Barcelona is a common testing location, so all teams start the weekend with a good idea of set-up. In my opinion, our pre-season testing there helped to an extent, but the smooth operations of the team over the weekend played a big part.

Q:
Is it easier to make progress with a car over the winter or during the season?

RZ:
The development of the car is essentially the main part of my job as third driver. We have had a busy test schedule this season and completed a lot of kilometres in order to keep up the progress. We have run two test teams this year, dividing the jobs up into long-term development and more race-specific preparation. This division of jobs has worked well, and I think this has been reflected in the competitiveness of the car in the second half of the season.

Q:
Looking at the team overall, where can the most progress be made?

RZ:
We are still a young team and we still have to improve operationally. Having said that, we worked well together this year, but when we are even better at that we will go quicker. This year, we tested a lot and learned a lot and for next year we know what we need and I think it will be a lot easier. We know the two race drivers, so there will be continuity and the team will be used to working with them.

Q:
How long does it take to establish a good working relationship with a team?

RZ:
I'd say it takes almost three months racing to develop a smooth working relationship. Testing is one thing but racing is different. With the pressure of the weekend you need to set up the car very quickly and it helps when you are used to working together.

 

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