Cristiano Da Matta
Brazilian racing driver who drove for Toyota Formula 1 in 2003. However he failed to make a breakthrough and was dropped mid season in 2004. Returned to Champ cars int he USA.
Brazilian auto racing driver. Da Matta's father was Toninho da Matta, a 14-time Brazilian touring car champion. He began karting at the age of 16, adopting a helmet design nearly identical to his famous father's helmet. He quickly rose to the top by winning numerous karting championships before winning the 1993 Brazilian Formula Ford championship. In 1994, he continued his successful ways, winning the Formula 3 Brazilian championship. In 1996, da Matta participated in the Formula 3000 series in Great Britain.
1997 saw Cristiano move to the United States for the Indy Lights racing series, in which he won "Rookie of the Year" honors. The next year (1998), he won the championship by winning 7 races and securing 4 pole positions. In 1999, da Matta raced in the CART series for Team Arciero Wells, which were running Toyota engines; da Matta drove a Toyota-powered car from then until 2004. His first win came in 2000, and despite some sponsor opposition he joined the front-running Newman/Haas Racing team for 2001. He won the CART drivers' championship in 2002 under Toyota power with the Newman/Haas Racing team, dominating the year with 7 race wins and 7 poles.
Cristiano completed his move up the racing ladder in 2003, reaching the pinnacle of motor sport with the Toyota F1 team. He scored 10 championship points that year, four more than seasoned veteran and teammate Olivier Panis. His fortunes took a downturn in 2004, however. Having scored only 3 championship points, da Matta lost his race seat to Ricardo Zonta after the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim. da Matta has vowed to never again race in Formula One, as he feels it is not competitive enough, with too much emphasis on car performance. However he has moved back to Champcars in the PKV Racing team to race in the 2005 season. He has returned to his winning ways, scoring a popular win in the fourth round of the season in Portland, Oregon, although he hit a lean spell after that, and ended up 11th in the championship points.
Outside the racing world, da Matta's interests including playing the guitar, swimming, and mountain biking. He also participated in gymnastics as a youth, at one point training with the Club Flamengo's Olympic team. Still single, he now lives in Miami, Florida and Monaco.
Da Matta needed emergency surgery to remove a ruptured blood vessel in his head after an accident on August 3rd 2006, when his car collided with a deer that wandered onto the track during a test session at Road America.