Although it's not a rule change as such, the Panasonic Toyota Racing Team faces a new situation in the 2006 season as it has lost the benefit of running a third driver on the Friday of race weekends.
The team first had the option to run a Friday driver back in 2003, when competitors were allowed to 'trade' that extra running against fewer test days between races. At the time the team preferred to focus on regular testing, but a change of rules for 2004 meant that any team finishing outside the top four in the constructors' championship could run a third car on Fridays. Thus over the past two seasons Ricardo Zonta and Olivier Panis have been able to make a major contribution to the outcome of race weekends, especially in terms of tyre testing.
Last year, the team finished fourth in the championship, so the third car option has gone. That puts the onus fully on the two race drivers to do all the set-up and tyre work on Friday and of course any running involves using up precious engine miles.
Mike Gascoyne "Losing the Friday third driver means the race drivers will inevitably do more laps, which has an effect on engine mileage over the weekend. And we will end up doing more laps anyway, because in qualifying instead of doing one timed lap, we will have to go out and do a lot of running."
Dieter Gass "It was nice to have an additional car running on race weekends, which was able to go through useful programmes like tyre testing. Now we will rely more on the experience of the race drivers, so it will be more work for them and a lot more demanding on the cars. But on our side we did not suffer from mileage limitations last year, so we had almost three complete programmes with the three drivers."
John Howett "None of the top teams can run a third car, so as we mature and improve as a team, we have to up our game and race against top teams in the same circumstances. Without the third car, there will be new challenges and I am confident we will tackle them head-on and overcome them."