Da Matta Relishes Running at the Top

Brazilian Cristiano da Matta admitted he enjoyed leading a Formula One Grand Prix for the first time in his career at today's race at Silverstone.

Da Matta Relishes Running at the Top

Brazilian Cristiano da Matta admitted he enjoyed leading a Formula One Grand Prix for the first time in his career at today's race at Silverstone.

In the confusion of a dramatic Grand Prix, there was a mass of hurried pitstops and Toyota's Brazilian rookie da Matta found himself leading a Grand Prix for the first time with French teammate Olivier Panis in third place.

Da Matta was unable to keep his position in the end, but went on to score two points by finishing in seventh place.

"I thoroughly enjoyed that race and I was quite happy with the way things went for us," said the Brazilian driver. "Seventh place is a nice reward for our performance this weekend. I'm very used to leading races, but this was the first time in F1, which is a special feeling.

"I knew it wouldn't last long, so I enjoyed it while I could and pushed hard to build up as much time advantage as possible. We have been gradually improving over the past few races and we are setting ourselves up to be in a strong position for the rest of this season, but more importantly for 2004."

French teammate Panis dropped down to 11th position after making three pitstops.

"We opted for a three-stop strategy today and I think we achieved the best we could," said Panis. "When the safety car was sent out for the first time, the team reacted well to call both cars in for fuel, resulting in Cristiano and myself being in first and second positions for a while, which was fantastic for the team to see.

"We are improving the car race-by-race, and we proved this weekend that we can be competitive throughout qualifying and the race. Overall, it has been an extremely positive weekend for the team."

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