Lack of third driver could hamper Toyota

Ralf Schumacher admitted in Manama on Friday that the lack of a third driver in Friday practice sessions could cost Toyota this season.

Toyota finished fourth in last year’s constructors’ world championship, which disqualifies them from running a third car in Friday testing. Grid rivals Honda set the pace on Saturday with their third driver, Anthony Davidson, at the wheel.

German Schumacher (30), who could only manage the 22nd-fastest time in both sessions, said: ”This year we no longer have Ricardo Zonta driving on Fridays, but my free practice programme is not hugely different.

”I did my programme during the second practice session without any technical problems, so we were able to collect some useful data. For sure, having to do the practice with only two cars this year will have an effect.”

Toyota’s chassis technical director Mike Gascoyne echoed Schumacher’s comments, but the Englishman said the Cologne-based team will have to get used to running only two cars this season.

He also believes that the electronics problem that cut Italian Jarno Trulli’s day short would have had less of an effect had a third car been in use.

Gascoyne said: ”That was a difficult first day for us. We had a conservative programme for the two sessions and then we had the problem that stopped Jarno before he did any meaningful running.

”It’s a new situation for us to run without the third car on Fridays, but as one of the top four teams that’s how it’s going to be, so we will have to learn to cope with it.”

Briton Davidson, Toro Rosso’s Vitantonio Liuzzi, of Italy and BMW Sauber’s Polish tester Robert Kubica all made the top 10 in practice, but the top teams, under new rules, have not been permitted to run a third driver.

Flavio Briatore, the boss of world champions Renault, believes that the well-financed manufacturer teams have now taken advantage of the third-car rule — which was initially established to help the smaller squads who needed more development time but could not afford a huge testing budget.

Italian Briatore said: ”We applied to get third cars for the economical effect to help small teams. It was not for Ferrari, McLaren, Honda to use. That is why we are all talking about the third car now.” — Sapa-AFP

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