Jarno Trulli has admitted his surprise at the Toyota two-three in qualifying for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang, after he 'really wasn't comfortable' and the team 'didn't look competitive at all' in Friday practice, when he and Timo Glock had languished mid-pack.
An overnight turnaround, however, was the cue for a charge in qualifying, as after both drivers had lapped up inside the top five in FP3, Trulli really took the fight to the seemingly uncatchable Jenson Button. He ultimately came within a mere nine hundredths of a second of spoiling Brawn GP's party, after producing a series of standout laps in Q1, Q2 and Q3 that augur well for the Italian's race day chances...even if he is somewhat circumspect about what might happen should the predicted rain materialise.
“I believe I've done a very good job,” the 34-year-old reflected. “It is a shame to lose pole for a few hundredths, but he (Button) deserved it. He's been quicker, even in Q2, but I'm happy anyway. I did not expect to be here today, as yesterday I was struggling.
“It was probably the track, but we had to analyse the data a lot because I didn't feel comfortable and we didn't look competitive at all, so I must praise the team and all the engineers – they have really been sitting down and analysing everything and today we changed quite a lot, especially this morning.
“We worked out a good set-up, and today we got it right. In qualifying the car was spot-on. We also did a very good job in order to make both [tyre] compounds work, and in qualifying the hard tyres weren't too bad. Obviously the gap between hard and soft is still big, but we managed to get them in.
“I hope to have a very good race and a good fight because that is what we are looking for. I think the most important thing is to get out of the first corner safe and clear, and then we will race from there. Obviously tomorrow is going to be a strange race probably, because we are all expecting bad weather and that can mix up the order a lot and the results.
“We've not really [tested on the wet tyres pre-season]. The only time I went out was the first test we did in Portugal but it was way too cold, so the tyres were not working and basically it was impossible to judge anything. At that stage, I remember that I thought the tyres were not good enough with this new aero package and downforce because they were just not biting and gripping up, and here, when it rains it's not normal rain – it just pours down.”
Be that as it may, Trulli did acknowledge that the later running time in Kuala Lumpur than has been the case in previous years – as with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne six days ago, intended to generate greater television viewing audiences in Europe – has resulted in cooler temperatures and consequently made the time spent inside the cockpit 'much more comfortable than it used to be'. He also added that the progress Toyota has clearly made over the winter months with its new TF109 challenger has left him extremely confident for the remainder of the campaign.
“I would like to thank the team because this year so far they are doing a great job,” the Pescara native underlined, “and I just hope we can carry on doing this. The Toyota engine is always improving and our competitiveness has definitely increased; we have raised our game, and now instead of challenging the top six or eight we are challenging the top five or top three. We're pretty happy about that.
“I think we are all here to win, everybody in the paddock, so things can mix up. They cannot always be the same teams every year. We are here working and investing and pushing a lot, so sometimes teams do a better job; sometimes, like now it seems, other teams are a bit on the up like us, Brawn and Red Bull, but things can change during the season because this is just the beginning, just the second race, so it's still not representative in my opinion.
“Every time I go out on the track I try to do my best. It doesn't mean that if starting from the pit-lane I finish third, then tomorrow I can win the race easily. Each race is a different story, so we just have to wait and see. We have a car to fight for podiums and then our aim will eventually be to win a race during the season, no matter if it's me or Timo – it's important for the Toyota team.”