Having started from pole position only to ultimately fall away in the race as the result of a misguided strategy, Jarno Trulli admitted to being disappointed at the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix - but he also asserted that Toyota is now more than capable of fighting for victory in Formula 1.

Prior to its desert trip, the big-budget Japanese manufacturer had begun no fewer than 125 races in the top flight since its low-key debut back in 2002, without ever winning one of them. It must have fancied its chances of breaking that duck on Sunday when Trulli and team-mate Timo Glock lined up alongside each other on the front row of the grid in Sakhir - the team's first-ever lock-out - but a decision to run the long middle stint on the Bridgestone's lesser-favoured medium-compound 'prime' tyres proved to be the squad's undoing.

Indeed, whilst no longer suffering from the braking woes that had threatened to derail his qualifying charge 24 hours earlier, Trulli could probably tell it was not going to be his day right from the very moment the lights went out...

"It was an interesting and tough race for me because I always found myself in a difficult situation," the Italian explained. "I was very unlucky at the start because I had an oil spillage. It was a good start in a way, but unfortunately the engine stopped when I was accelerating away and this cost me first position. I lost a lot of ground and I was lucky enough to get out of the first corner second.

"Actually, I had to fight back against Lewis [Hamilton], firstly because he had KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) on the straight and secondly because the engine wasn't pulling at that time, so it was really hard. Going into turn four wheel-to-wheel was a nice battle, and I didn't give up because I knew it was important for me to stay ahead.

"Then I was basically following my team-mate. I knew I was going longer, but obviously being behind is not always easy. The car wasn't too bad, but the rear end was starting to go away, so I was struggling a little bit and just trying to push as hard as possible."

The Pescara native stayed firmly in touch with Glock right up to the first round of pit-stops and succeeded in jumping the German by staying out a lap longer than the sister TF109. If pitting so early cost Toyota a little, though, switching onto the 'prime' rubber for the second stint whilst all of their major rivals remained on the 'option' compound cost them a lot, and was in strategic terms nigh-on a disaster.

With poor pace, Trulli crucially lost out to world championship leader Jenson Button once the opening round of pit visits had all shaken out, and had Shanghai winner Sebastian Vettel and reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton right in his mirrors for the entirety of his 25-lap middle stint of the grand prix. To his immense credit, the 34-year-old did not put a foot wrong and held his pursuers at bay all the way to his second stop on lap 37 of 57, but with Vettel running three laps longer, the Red Bull Racing ace was able to pinch the runner-up spot away from him - leaving the Abruzzese, now on the better rubber of the two at last, to unsuccessfully attempt to regain the place over the race's closing stages.

"We ran a very long second stint on the hard tyres," he recounted. "We were not sure about the soft tyres and how many laps they could remain competitive. To be honest it is difficult for me now to judge - I need to go through it with the engineers - but obviously the team had a better idea than me with all the data collected during the winter and this season. That was one of the reasons behind the choice.

"I was trying to fight, but it was really hard fighting with and defending against a lot of cars that were lighter than mine. I wasn't extremely quick but I was competitive being on the hard tyres, and Sebastian was biting my tail for most of the race before eventually taking the position after my last stop. He was then on the hard tyres and I was on the soft [in the final stint] and I was pushing him. I was quicker but there was no way to overtake him, so that was how the race was.

"[The strategy] didn't work out, but in general the team have done a very good job for me, so I have to praise them as we managed to put both cars on the front row and we managed also to get on the podium. In the end it was still a good race, and we will go through the data and everything with the engineers in order to get better and get a better car. Obviously the target was to win and I think all-in-all the strategy wasn't too bad, but we still have to improve our pace.

"To win you need to get everything right, and it didn't go perfectly right - we had several troubles and I had to fight very hard. I'm not saying we lost the race; we just expected a bit more. I am a little bit disappointed because I was waiting for the first win for Toyota, but I want to thank the team as they have done a very good job, so let's fight again for the next race. I've learned now that we can fight for the win."

Indeed, if the result was ultimately frustrating for Trulli and Toyota, then the performance was nonetheless encouraging, with the Cologne-based outfit maintaining its strong early-season form - even if the former Monaco Grand Prix winner is adamant that there can be absolutely no let-up as F1 returns to Europe and the established 'grandee' teams prepare to fight back. Now, he stresses, is the time to push harder than ever.

"It's definitely going to be an interesting season because of the changes," he affirmed, "and it gives quite an open window for development for all the teams. I have faith in my team; they know very well that four races is very little. We've got a lot of races to go until the end of the championship, so we need to develop the car [and] get better as I can see already some signs of improvement from other teams.

"If you look at these races, there are some teams that have made quite a big step compared to the first two races, so I definitely expect a big fight during the season and I also expect quite a mix of leading cars and teams. This is nice for everyone. I was on pole, Sebastian won the last race and obviously the most consistent car and driver at the moment is Jenson [Button] with the Brawn, but there are some teams which are really getting close, so we need to keep pushing."

Glock faded away to seventh place in the final reckoning, similarly hobbled by Toyota's mid-race tyre blunder and suffering rather more than his team-mate on the medium-compound rubber. The most entertaining part of the 26-year-old's race was a lively scrap with the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in the closing stages, but try as he might, the man from Lindenfels was unable to find a way past the scarlet machine.

"It was a promising start, I would say," he summarised. "I won the start against Jarno from the dirty side of the grid. I was quite surprised by that, and I could slightly open up a gap to Jarno in the first stint, but then we were the first guys to pit. That was already critical, and then when I went out on the prime tyres in the first laps I lost I don't know how many seconds.

"For me, it felt like I couldn't get any heat into the 'prime' tyres. Even over the first ten to 15 laps on them there was no chance, and I was six tenths to a second slower than Jarno. We lost everything in the second stint, and after 20 laps [on them] the race for the podium was over."