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Panasonic Toyota Racing capped off a disappointing weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix with a difficult race around the Sakhir circuit. The new package has struggled for pace all weekend and for that reason the team put the two drivers on different strategies, turning the afternoon into an effective test session. This decision was taken as part of a bid to come away from Bahrain with as much data as possible about how to get the most out of the cars at the coming races. Both Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli fought hard in trying conditions but in the end they could do no better than 14th and 16th places at the first race of 2006. Toyota will now head to next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix hoping to have learned some lessons as it tries to make a step forward.
Ralf Schumacher raced on a three-stop strategy as Toyota opted to gain as much data as possible from the day's work.
Ralf Schumacher: "This weekend has been a struggle from the start. After our problems in qualifying yesterday, we used this afternoon as a test session to collect data to improve for the coming races. I was on a three-stop strategy whereas Jarno was on two stops so at least we can now compare the data from our two cars. This way we can try to learn as much as possible about our new package. Of course this was not the way we hoped to start off the 2006 season but we have to take things as they are and try to move forward from here. We don't know where the problem is but hopefully we will soon find out. The early races will be difficult but all we can do is push as hard as we can to move back up the grid."
Jarno Trulli battled hard on a two-stop strategy in a bid to help Toyota to learn as much as possible from Sakhir.
Jarno Trulli: "This has obviously been a very disappointing weekend for the whole team and today was no exception. We chose to go with a two-stop strategy so we could make comparisons with Ralf's data for future reference but it was a hard afternoon's work for me. I just pushed as hard as I could for the whole race – but the harder I pushed the slower I seemed to go! I don't know what the solution is because there was nothing particular going wrong, we were simply not quick enough. It's a difficult way to start the season but we will work hard as a team to try and do our best to make up as much ground as possible."
This weekend's disappointing performance has come as a shock to the Panasonic Toyota Racing team.
Tsutomu Tomita – Team Principal: "The first grand prix weekend of 2006 has been a shocking way to start the year – not only for the team but for the fans all over the world. This afternoon our reliability was good and Ralf and Jarno used all their skill and spirit. But the car was unexpectedly slower than many of the other cars and we could do nothing to step up during the race. We put the drivers on different strategies – Ralf on three tops and Jarno on two. At one point Jarno was good enough to let Ralf through because he was on a different strategy and a lighter fuel load, which meant he finished ahead. But overall we have to treat the weekend as a test session and use it to analyse why we didn't get the expected performance level. It was a disappointing race and a disappointing weekend and certainly not what we expected coming here based on our performance in testing. The basic balance of the car was okay but we have just been struggling for grip all weekend. It seems we have lost the considerable performance advantage we have built up since the middle of last year so we have a lot of work to do to understand the reasons. This is a very frustrating atmosphere but I'm sure that we will make every effort to come back at the coming races."
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