Brake issues aside, Jarno Trulli has insisted that he is 'not concerned at all' about pressure from behind as he bids to convert pole position into Toyota's breakthrough Formula 1 triumph in today's Bahrain Grand Prix, pointing out that his best performances 'always come in the worst, most difficult conditions'.
Despite admitting to not having felt overly optimistic before the start of the qualifying session in Sakhir – the track where he raced to what was then only Toyota's second-ever rostrum finish in the top flight four years ago – Trulli stormed to the top spot on the starting grid by almost three tenths of a second in the desert kingdom, with team-mate Timo Glock making it a perfect day for the Cologne-based outfit by joining him on the front row. The only concern now, the Italian admitted, is to whether the brakes will hold out...
“It wasn't an easy qualifying I think for anyone,” the 34-year-old acknowledged, “but for me everything was made more difficult as after the first run we found a couple of troubles on my car. At the beginning we found out that maybe we had some problem with the fuel – so I had a bit more fuel on-board to make sure I didn't run out – and then the biggest problem was the brakes. To be honest we don't understand what happened, but the pedal was getting longer and longer and I was getting knock-off and wasn't able to brake the way I wanted to.
“We have not had any problems during the whole weekend, but unfortunately in qualifying after two runs I was struggling and I lost a couple of tenths on all my runs from Q2 to Q3. We had to do a quick 'hot bleed' between the two sessions, but I was still having problems, so basically I was not stopping the car well and I could not feel or handle the brake pedal well. Some time was lost there, so I think there is much more potential in the car. To be honest I did not feel very confident for the qualifying lap. Nevertheless, I did not give up as I knew I had a good car and I could fight for pole, so it was really nice to end up with first and second for the team.
“One of the big bosses, Mr Okamoto, is also here to support us, so it is great to show him such a great result and what great work we have been doing over the winter time. I have been working quite a lot more on race pace where I feel more comfortable and competitive – when we fuelled the car it felt better – so I feel extremely confident for the race now. I should not have any problems apart from the fact that we need to analyse the data to see if we have some problem on the brakes and if we can change it, as this is a bit of a worry.”
Toyota was one of just three F1 teams – in company with Ferrari and BMW-Sauber – to test in Bahrain in the build-up to the 2009 campaign, and though conditions were somewhat different then, the move nonetheless appears to be paying dividends. The big-budget Japanese manufacturer – and Trulli in particular – has always performed well in Sakhir, and the Pescara native is clearly hoping his own good luck returns after a trying start to the season and that he can notch up his second victory in the top flight following that achieved in Monaco back in 2004, so that he can honour the memory of all those who died and lost their homes in the tragic earthquake in his home region of the Abruzzo earlier this month.
“There are a few interesting things which we discovered compared to winter time testing, as I believe the situation has changed dramatically,” the Pescara native affirmed. “All-in-all we are happy with the data collected, and I think we have quite a good idea of what can happen in the race.
“I think half of it is thanks to the fact that we have been testing here over the winter time, part of it is also thanks to the fact that we have seen in the past that this is one of the tracks which our cars seems to like and partly [it is] because we have done a better job than the others. I don't know, but putting everything together puts both cars on the front row, so it just shows that the whole team has done a reasonably good job.
“During the first three races, I don't think things have really worked out well for me. I just hope for a trouble-free race and I'm sure we can do a good job and get a good result. If I look back at everything that's happened during the past races, it's always been a bit difficult for me, so I just hope everything goes alright.
“I'm not concerned [by the oppressive heat] at all, to be honest. If you look back, all my best performances always come in the worst, most difficult conditions. I'm more than happy to race in these hot conditions, and I wish I could always have this pressure [of starting on pole]. I'm not afraid. One time I was on pole I won, so it's not a problem.
“Obviously we just have to wait and see, but I must say I am very confident for the race as my race pace and looking after the tyres have been pretty good all weekend. Definitely my thoughts have recently always been with my region. As you all know, I'm supporting a charity campaign with all the drivers as well, the GPDA, and I'm trying to involve as many people as possible, so my first thoughts are with my region.”