Panasonic Toyota Racing has announced that its third driver Ricardo Zonta will be promoted to the role of race driver with effect from the upcoming Grand Prix of Hungary. Zonta will replace Cristiano da Matta and race alongside Olivier Panis.
The team's test driver Ryan Briscoe will in turn assume Zonta's role during the race weekend, running the third car during Friday's free practice sessions.
Cristiano da Matta will continue to be employed as a Toyota driver for the remainder of the year and could consequently still be called upon to partake in any driving or marketing-related activities for the Panasonic Toyota Racing team.
"We revised our original plans after we reviewed the results of the last three Grands Prix. Ricardo Zonta consistently performed very well, as indeed he also did in the first half of the 2004 season. We believe it is fair to offer Ricardo the chance to show his potential in full race conditions, before we enter into the final step of our driver evaluation for the 2005 season, said Team Principal Tsutomu Tomita. "We decided to retain Olivier Panis as a race driver for the rest of this season, based on the fact that he is the driver who has secured the team's best race result of the year so far (5th in Indianapolis) and has collected the higher number of championship points (5)," he further added.
Cristiano da Matta will remain a Panasonic Toyota Racing driver until the end of 2004 and could still be called upon to undertake activities accordingly.