A visibly delighted Jarno Trulli admitted to being 'thrilled' with a pole position for this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir that he dedicated to the victims of the L'Aquila earthquake in his home region of the Abruzzo in Italy – but in a cautionary postscript, he evoked the fear of brake problems for Toyota on race day.
Having kept a fairly low profile throughout practice – lapping just 14th-quickest in FP1 and ninth in FP3 on Saturday morning – Trulli and Toyota finally showed off their true colours in the qualifying hour, with the Pescara native never outside the top three. Though he seemed to be trailing Shanghai winner Sebastian Vettel in the low-fuel Q2 session, the renowned one-lap expert pulled a stunning lap out of the bag in the Q3 shoot-out, leaving it late to leapfrog team-mate Timo Glock, Red Bull star Vettel and Brawn GP world championship leader Jenson Button to annex the fourth pole of his Formula 1 career.
“I'm thrilled to be back on pole again!” enthused the 34-year-old, who last occupied the top spot on the starting grid all the way back in the abortive US Grand Prix four years ago. “This weekend has gone well and it's great to be starting at the front tomorrow. In fact this afternoon didn't go quite as smoothly as yesterday, because I had a bit of a problem with my brakes during the session. That's a bit of a worry for the race, so we'll have to look into it overnight.
“Still, I'm confident for tomorrow because our race pace has been good this weekend and we've been looking after the tyres well. The first three races haven't really worked out for me, but I hope we can now change that. We tested here over the winter and this track has gone well for our cars in the past – to have both cars in the top two shows we did a very good job. I'd like to dedicate this pole both to my team, who have worked so hard, and to the people of my home region Abruzzo, who suffered a disastrous earthquake this month.”
The big-budget Japanese manufacturer's joy was completed by Glock – who had headed the timing screens in FP3 – joining Trulli in the team's maiden front row lock-out, almost three tenths of a second adrift of the Italian's scintillating marker albeit a similar margin clear of third-placed Vettel. What's more, P2 marks the highest starting spot of the young German's fledgling career in the top flight.
“It's brilliant that we've been able to take the top two places today,” the 26-year-old underlined. “We had a problem on my car yesterday and we were struggling, but the team did a good job to change things for today. We were quickest in the session this morning – though I lost a bit of running with an electronics glitch – and qualifying went extremely smoothly.
“The wind changed a bit and it was a struggle to get used to the prime tyres in Q1. After that I felt more comfortable in Q2, but in Q3 I made a small error after turn eight so I couldn't catch Jarno. A big thank you to all the engineers and mechanics, because it's been a hard start to the season for everyone and this is a great result for us.”
Indeed, despite rostrum finishes for Trulli in the Melbourne curtain-raiser and Glock a week later in the rains of Sepang, the Cologne-based outfit has on balance promised more than it has delivered over the opening three races of the new campaign. The squad is still searching for its breakthrough grand prix victory after some 126 starts in F1, but with the car in front in Sakhir being not just one Toyota but indeed two, senior general chassis manager Pascal Vasselon is hopeful the long and painful wait is now close to being over.
“We're obviously delighted with today's result,” the Frenchman concluded. “We have been competitive throughout the weekend, so we were targeting pole and things went as expected – though the gap to the cars behind us is a bit bigger than we anticipated. Both drivers did a great job; from the very first lap in Q1 we could see the pace was there, so we just had to manage it over the sessions.
“Tomorrow's race will be very interesting, because the tyre situation generates huge differences between the two specs and it opens windows for very different strategies. We already saw yesterday that our pace over one lap and our consistency over long runs were good. This morning went well except for a small electronics problem on Timo's car – congratulations to the engineers and mechanics who fixed it in time. Now we have to convert this perfect start into a result tomorrow.”