Jarno Trulli professed himself pleased with his qualifying performance and 'optimistic' for his race day chances in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, as Toyota successfully pulled a rabbit out of the hat around a track that had threatened to leave them all at sea.
After proving to be solid if unspectacular throughout practice, the TF109 machines of both Trulli and team-mate Timo Glock looked to be a handful indeed on low fuel in the opening two parts of qualifying, with the experienced Italian only narrowly scraping through into Q2 and Q3 as his car in particular seemed to be distinctly lacking in terms of grip and balance.
What's more, despite having brought some modifications of its own along to the Circuit de Catalunya for the start of the European leg of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship campaign this weekend, the big-budget Japanese manufacturer appears to have ceded ground to a number of its rivals.
Whilst both drivers got themselves through to the top ten shoot-out, they could manage no better than the sixth (Glock) and seventh (Trulli) fastest times when it really counted, seven tenths of a second shy of the leading pace – when only a fortnight ago in Bahrain they had been
the leading pace, artfully locking out the front row of the grid in the desert kingdom. Nonetheless, Trulli insisted he was confident in what he can achieve in the grand prix.
“It was an interesting and tough qualifying session for me today,” the 34-year-old Pescara native affirmed, “particularly Q1 and Q2 when I struggled a little on a low fuel load, but we made it into Q3 which is the main thing. In Q3 the grip was much better with more fuel on-board and the car reacted well, so I was able to push hard.
“At the end of the session I managed to put in a very good lap so I am pleased with my performance, and I think seventh on the grid is pretty good considering the fuel I have on-board. I believe my strategy is a good one so today's result was positive, and I am optimistic for a good result in the race.”
“I am reasonably satisfied to be starting in the top six, especially as the practice sessions didn't go completely to plan,” concurred Glock, a comfortable three tenths of a second quicker than his team-mate in Q1 and Q2 but a scant seven thousandths ahead in the final reckoning, and due to pit four laps earlier. “I struggled a bit in practice with car stability, but we worked hard to improve that and qualifying sixth is not a bad result so we have to be happy with it.
“Obviously we hoped to be a bit closer to the front, but other teams have made a step forward this weekend and the competition is really close. I've scored points in all the races so far this season, and starting from the third row gives me a good opportunity to keep up that run. Finishing on the podium will not be easy, but of course I'll be pushing as hard as possible and we'll see what happens in the race tomorrow.”
Though the performance is on paper arguably Toyota's least convincing of the season to-date, the Cologne-based outfit's senior general chassis manager, Pascal Vasselon, remains 'positive' of progress on race day, and contended that both drivers are 'in good shape' to maintain the team's impressive form thus far in 2009.
“All-in-all our qualifying performance went well,” the Frenchman reported, “and we are reasonably satisfied to have both cars in the top eight. It has been a busy weekend for us because we had several new aerodynamic items to evaluate in practice, and we have done a lot of laps in preparation for the race. Prior to qualifying the practice results didn't look fantastic, but we have worked well to be competitive again when it mattered.
“In terms of track and tyre characteristics here, we are in a situation which clearly opens a window for two or three pit-stops, so the race will be very interesting and we will probably see some different strategies. We believe we are in good shape, so I am feeling positive.”