Toyota was left lamenting a 'disappointing' qualifying performance for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix that it described as 'far away from our 2009 standards' – with Jarno Trulli winding up sixth on the grid and Timo Glock having to take the starting lights from the very back row.
Having lapped second-quickest to Williams' Nico Rosberg in Saturday morning's final free practice session, Trulli entered qualifying with high hopes of replicating or at least approaching the form that had seen him come close to stealing pole position in Malaysia a fortnight ago, and solid showings in both Q1 and Q2 seemed to indicate that the Italian would once more be in the mix for the leading positions in the all-important top ten shoot-out.
However, the Pescara native – racing this weekend in support of the victims of the tragic earthquake in his home region of the Abruzzo earlier this month – subsequently found himself battling against a lack of grip in Q3, consigning him to a third row starting spot, six-and-a-half tenths shy of pole albeit ostensibly carrying more fuel than each of the five drivers in front of him. He now hopes his Shanghai curse – one that has prevented him from scoring in every one of his four previous appearances there – will not strike again on Sunday.
“It was a hard qualifying for me and I'm a bit disappointed with the results,” confessed the 34-year-old. “After this morning's practice session I believed we had the pace to be at the front, but somehow, just as in Australia, the grip slipped away between this morning and this afternoon.
“Something was missing after that; the car wasn't there anymore, and I had to push hard even to make it into Q3. Still, I was happy with my final lap and in the end P6 is a reasonable place to start. Tomorrow should be a good race and there could be rain, so that could mix things up.”
If Trulli was not entirely satisfied, then team-mate Glock was a good deal unhappier still, with a gearbox failure early on in FP3 requiring the young German to take a gearbox change in his TF109 and accept the five-place grid penalty that accompanies it. The former GP2 Series Champion similarly bemoaned grip issues in qualifying and, unable to better 14th position in Q2, will consequently begin the grand prix from all the way down in 19th and penultimate place.
“This morning I had a gearbox problem after three or four laps in free practice,” the 27-year-old explained, “so we lost a complete session and I was short on track time heading into qualifying. The car felt different from yesterday and it was already really tricky to drive in Q1.
“I couldn't string a lap together, and I knew it would be difficult to get into Q3 because the times were so tight. It felt slippery; I couldn't quite feel confident with the car, and on the last lap I made a mistake so that was that. With our penalty it means we are starting from the back row, so now we just have to hope for rain tomorrow.”
“This was obviously a disappointing result,” corroborated the Cologne-based outfit's senior general chassis manager Pascal Vasselon, “far away from our 2009 standards. Timo had a gearbox problem this morning which we couldn't repair, so we were forced to change the unit for qualifying. He had a troubled day and a troubled qualifying, which together with the penalty means he will start on the back row. Of course we will amend his strategy for this position.
“For Jarno it went better, but still far from expectations. The tyres have been the story of the weekend, especially the management of the softer compound, which is better than expected but still problematic. There is a window for a three-stop strategy here, so it will be interesting to see how the race unfolds.”