Toyota is 'optimistic, passionate, fired-up and determined' to prove that its 'unacceptable' performance in the Monaco Grand Prix last time out was merely an aberration, the team insists – as it bids to regain its momentum in a race in which this time last year both drivers saw the chequered flag, but neither scored any points.
The big-budget Japanese manufacturer's form around the narrow, tortuous streets of the glamorous Principality was abject, and undeniably a black mark against the company's Formula 1 record as neither Jarno Trulli nor Timo Glock were able to drag themselves away from the back row of the starting grid in qualifying, and their race day pace was little better, as both grappled with a chronic lack of grip and stability from the TF109.
Considering that the same drivers and team had achieved a front row lock-out barely a month earlier in Bahrain, it was a dramatic fall from grace, and one from which all concerned are determined to rebound – and fast. Though Trulli has only once finished inside the points around the undulating, technically challenging and physically demanding 14-turn Istanbul Park Circuit – coming home sixth in the race's inaugural edition in 2005 – and Glock has just a 13th place to his name from last year, hopes are high that the nightmare of Monte Carlo can swiftly be banished as F1 heads back east again.
“I am hopeful of a strong result this weekend,” underlined the Italian. “Monaco was difficult for everyone in the team, but that is in the past now and we are looking forward to the next race. Monaco is basically a one-off circuit for Formula 1, and the Istanbul track is very different so I'm sure we will be a lot more competitive this weekend. We are third in the constructors' championship which shows that overall we are in good shape this year, and it is important that we return to the performance level we had in the first four races.
“Istanbul is not one of my favourite circuits and I have not had much luck there in the past, but I am determined to change that. Turn eight is the most challenging part of the track, and it's important to get your set-up right for this as you need a balanced car to be really quick. I can't wait to start practice and find out where we are, because I am fired-up to bounce back this weekend.”
“I am going to Turkey with a huge amount of determination,” echoed his German team-mate, “because Monaco was not the kind of weekend we expect and we are all looking forward to getting back to where we belong. Everyone at the team is really passionate about racing and about succeeding, so the Monaco weekend hurt us – but it also gave us even more motivation to improve. I have spent some time at the factory since then to do what I can to help, and I can see everyone there is giving everything for the team to succeed.
“Clearly we want to get back in the points this weekend, but really our goals are higher than that and we ultimately want to be fighting for the podium. It's a very close fight at the moment so it's difficult to predict exactly what will happen, but certainly we expect a big improvement and I am looking forward to battling at the right end of the grid in Turkey.”
Indeed, whilst Toyota is still third in the constructors' title chase, it is being closed down by the challenges of a resurgent Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes, both of whom comfortably had the beating of the red-and-white cars in Monaco. The Cologne-based outfit's motorsport president John Howett recognises that a much-improved showing is of the utmost importance this weekend – and he is confident that the team will produce just that.
“Clearly we want – and expect – to deliver a significantly better performance in Turkey than we did in Monaco, which was unacceptable to us,” stressed the Englishman. “We saw in Spain and Monaco that we were not good enough in slow-speed sectors, and we have worked tirelessly to understand the reason for this. It tends to be influenced by traction, and this was magnified by Monaco. We have conducted a straight-line aero test, and that will give us the information we need to rapidly develop a solution. Turkey is a very different circuit to Monaco – and I am very optimistic we will be strong.”