Da Matta Encouraged Despite Troubled Start

Toyota driver Cristiano da Matta was encouraged after making his Grand Prix debut in today's first sessions for the Australian Grand Prix.

Da Matta Encouraged Despite Troubled Start

Toyota driver Cristiano da Matta was encouraged after making his Grand Prix debut in today's first sessions for the Australian Grand Prix.

Brazilian CART champion da Matta had a troubled start to his first Grand Prix weekend after he collected $4,500 in fines within the space of 15 minutes. Stewards fined the new Toyota driver $2,500 for breaking the pitlane speed limit 47 minutes into the season's first practice session and $2,000 when he repeated the offence 15 minutes later.

Da Matta, 29, is one of four new drivers in Formula One this season and had never before driven at Melbourne's Albert Park. He was 15th fastest in the practice session and wound up a promising 11th in qualifying.

"Today has been a difficult day for me, because this was my first time on the track and I only had 24 laps this morning to familiarise myself with everything," said da Matta. "I am sure like every driver, I feel like I could have done better, but I am happy with the result and more encouraged by the overall potential of the car and the team."

Teammate Olivier Panis completed a promising day for the Toyota team after setting the eighth quickest time less than a second behind pace-setter Rubens Barrichello.

"We had some problems in free practice this morning, so we changed the set-up of the car a lot and I was quite pleased with the performance of the car in the session; it is very promising," Panis said.

"I had some understeer on the first corner of my fast lap, which lost me some time, but I am very happy for the team that we see this potential. We now have a lot of work to do tonight before the practice and qualifying tomorrow."

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