MELBOURNE: Toyota’s Brazilian driver Cristiano da Matta has sought advice from former CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya as he wrestles with the transition to Formula One this year.
Da Matta won last year’s CART championship before joining Toyota alongside France’s 125-race veteran Olivier Panis for the 2003 Formula One season which starts in Melbourne on March 9.
Colombia’s Montoya, 27, won the 1999 CART championship and switched to the Williams in 2001, finishing sixth overall including a win at Monza.
He was third last year with 50 points and seven poles.
“In CART, I was going into every race thinking I could win the race, or fight for the win,” da Matta told reporters in Melbourne yesterday.
“Here I think now maybe if I get a podium position it would be more than a race win for me personally.
“The horsepower is similar. The handling is completely different.
“This car is 600 kilos with the driver, the (CART racing) car weighs 800 kilos with the driver so it’s a big difference, 25 per cent in weight.”
The 29-year-old said when he started test driving with Toyota he was one second off the pace and felt he was pushing the car to the limit.
Montoya’s improvement from sixth overall to third in one year with Williams was an example of how improvement came over a two-year period, da Matta said.
“It’s quick to get to 95 per cent, and then I think it takes a little bit more to take it to 100 percent,” he said.
Da Matta said he had sought advice from Montoya.
“We will be exchanging a lot of information but not much about driving because... the difficulties that I have are all unknown to him because he has been doing that for so long,” da Matta said.
“On the low-speed corners I (need more) finesse. I’m sure when I get the low-speed corners right I’m going to be going very fast.
“It’s more important to be very smooth and gentle with the car.”
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