They may both have ended up inside the top three on the timing screens at the end of the opening day of practice for this weekend's curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix, but Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock were apprehensive about the true potential of Toyota's TF109 – a car that the Italian claims 'isn't completely comfortable to drive'.
After modest eighth (Glock) and twelfth places in the morning running, the duo improved to third (Trulli) and sixth later on, both less than four tenths shy of the leading pace. That seemed to corroborate winter testing form, when the big-budget Japanese manufacturer's new machine has shown solid performance and reliability.
Both drivers enjoyed a productive couple of sessions evaluating mechanical and aerodynamic set-up and Bridgestone's medium and super-soft tyre compounds around the Albert Park circuit – but neither professed himself entirely content at the close of play.
“It was a tough day,” Trulli contended, “because we covered quite a few laps and had a lot of things to work on. In general we have worked really hard to understand the tyres and find the right set-up, which is not easy. I am still not completely happy with the car balance and, even though when you look at the timing sheets things look pretty good for us, the car isn't completely comfortable to drive.
“Now we have to work on improving the set-up and balance for tomorrow, when it is most important. Anyway, I have to say it's great to be back at a grand prix, because I love being behind the wheel with the atmosphere and excitement of a race weekend; this is what I live for.”
“In the end I am satisfied with our day,” added Glock, “but I have to say the first session went better than the second session for me. In the first session I had a good feeling from the car and things were running well, but then later on I suddenly had a few problems because the car was a bit nervous and didn't feel as stable on the long runs.
“The behaviour of the car seemed to change between the sessions, so we have to look at the data to understand why that happened. We still have some work to do, but that is the purpose of practice and we will work hard on the car set-up before qualifying tomorrow.”
Toyota has been tipped in some quarters as a genuine front-runner for the first time in 2009 – particularly if it is allowed to retain its controversial diffuser design – or a regular points and podium contender at the very least, but like his drivers, the Cologne-based outfit's chief race and test engineer Dieter Gass sought to try and keep expectations under check somewhat.
“It was a reasonable day for us,” the German remarked. “The track evolution was different compared to previous years, but that was probably connected to the later start for practice. As usual it was dirty to begin with so that affected the grip, and then in the second session it seemed the track began to drop off at one stage.
“The biggest issue we have to follow up is the tyres, because the behaviour is not quite as we expected, but apart from that it was a pretty smooth day with both cars. We didn't have any significant issues, so we completed quite a lot of laps and got through our full programme of looking at set-up and studying the tyres.
“It is only Friday – so it's not easy to judge relative performance – but we are looking quite competitive, even though we will focus on improving our long-run performance before the race.”