Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi were presented together for the first time as Panasonic Toyota Racing’s 2008 drivers at the team’s pre-season event in Cologne, Germany today. Jarno begins his fourth full season as a Panasonic Toyota Racing race driver, with Timo joining as his new team-mate after winning the GP2 Series title in 2007.
Kamui, a product of the Toyota Young Drivers Programme, is the new third driver and combines his role with racing in the GP2 Series.
The new TF108 is the product of an exhaustive research and development process, into which Jarno Trulli has contributed the benefit of his considerable Formula 1 experience, giving him confidence for the season ahead.
“My hopes are always high because normally I am very positive,” he says. “I think that the team has got the potential, the resources, the people and everything necessary to bounce back to the position where we belong. I believe we can produce a good car for next year.
“I have been giving input into this car since the middle of the 2007 season, helping to develop the car to adapt to the new rules which ban traction control and engine braking. There is quite a big change in terms of electronics this year and I have spent time working with the team on this. I am doing all I can in order to help the team to step up.”
The 33-year-old Italian joined Panasonic Toyota Racing towards the end of the 2004 season so 2008 represents his fourth full season with the team. He has developed a close working relationship with the team in that time and believes this will have a positive effect this year.
He adds: “I really enjoy working with the team and I am comfortable here. I know the engineers and the way the team works so I think that kind of stability has to be an advantage. We work strongly as a team and we are pulling together to help move forward after the problems we had in 2007.
“Obviously it was a difficult season in terms of results and performance but we are all committed to making a significant improvement. I know the team very well and they know me very well – we understand each other’s potential and I am sure sticking together will be an advantage.”
For 2008, Panasonic Toyota Racing’s race driver line-up has an exciting blend of youth and experience, with Timo Glock moving up to his first full-time Formula 1 race drive.
He is already a proven champion after a superb season in the GP2 Series, where he showed his fighting sprit and adaptability to win the championship. But the 25-year-old is far from a stranger to a Formula 1 cockpit, having spent a year as test and then race driver for Jordan in 2004 before acting as BMW Sauber test driver last season.
His hard work and impressive feedback were obvious to the team when he tested a Toyota for the first time in December and the young German is ready for the challenge of Grand Prix racing, starting in Melbourne on 16 March.
“I can’t wait,” he says. “It will be a very proud and exciting moment for me but I will also be focused on getting the best possible result in the race, as always. Formula 1 will be a little different compared to the other series I have raced in because I am racing against 21 of the best drivers in the world, but my job is still the same – to get the best possible result from my car.”
After enjoying success in GP2, Timo is confident and motivated ahead of the 2008 season, when he expects to help the team achieve its goal of a significant improvement in results by scoring points regularly.
“I want to have the most successful season possible,” he says. “I aim to be consistent and to help the team move upwards. My first goal will be to regularly challenge for points and I believe we will be able to do that.
“Even though I have not raced in Formula 1 since 2004, I have tested quite regularly so I expect it will take very little time for me to get back in the groove. I have been lucky enough to race and succeed in several different championships in my career but my goal has always been to become a full-time Formula 1 race driver. I believe my experience has made me stronger as a driver and as a person.”
The youngest member of the driver line-up is 21-year-old Kamui Kobayashi, who continues his rapid rise up the motorsport ranks by stepping in as third driver.
Like fellow newcomer Timo, Kamui has already tested for Panasonic Toyota Racing, most recently at Jerez in December, and he showed the ability to make a positive contribution to car development – not to mention impressive fitness by completing over 200 laps in two days.
As well as developing the TF108 this season, Kamui expects to develop himself as a driver while learning more about the fastest racing cars on earth. He says: “Everything is just more extreme and it is a special experience to drive a Formula 1 car. It is difficult to drive at the limit of the car, at the limit of grip and at the limit of your concentration – it requires a high level of performance.
“It will be a challenge for me but I will always do my best. I will work hard on improving the car but also on improving myself because I do not have a lot of Formula 1 experience and I can get better in the way I communicate to my engineers and things like that.”
He is clear about the task ahead as third driver, which is to work in tandem with the race drivers to continuously improve the TF108 throughout the coming season.
“It is very exciting to become a third driver in Formula 1 but I know there is a lot of work to do,” he adds. “When I moved to Europe to start racing formula cars my ambition was to one day become a Formula 1 driver and it feels great to say I am now a Formula 1 driver. We all want to make a really good car and we are working hard to achieve that.”
Kamui is not alone – everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing is passionate about succeeding in Formula 1 and the whole team, including all three drivers, is fighting together to make 2008 a successful season.