Jarno Trulli produced a superb performance to restore Toyota's faltering credibility in the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul – showing strong pace from start-to-finish around one of the most technically challenging and physically demanding circuits on the Formula 1 calendar to give the big-budget Japanese manufacturer hope of a return to the rostrum next time out at Silverstone.
Following an abject weekend in Monaco a fortnight earlier that saw both TF109s of Trulli and team-mate Timo Glock occupying the very back row of the starting grid – and faring little better on race day – Toyota arrived in Turkey with a point to prove, and the fifth-fastest time in qualifying for the Italian was an encouraging way to begin.
From there, the Pescara native made a blinding getaway when the lights went out to vault past both the tardy Brawn GP of Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber's Red Bull Racing into turn one, and though he would be forced to cede position again to the Australian midway around the first lap due to braking troubles, Trulli subsequently settled into a solid fourth throughout the opening stint.
Despite losing a spot to Nico Rosberg during the first round of pit visits, the Abruzzese kept pushing and came back at his German rival in the final part of the grand prix, regaining P4 when both stopped again for the second and last time, and going on to edge clear all the way to the end to consolidate his fifth place in the drivers' title standings.
“I am pleased with the race result and also with the car,” he reported afterwards of his fourth top four finish of the 2009 campaign. “We have worked really hard to find more performance, and it's great to be back in the fight for a podium. The team deserve a lot of credit for the improvement this weekend, including the engineers who have made a good step with our starts. My start was incredible and I made up two places into the first corner, however I struggled a lot on the first lap with locking brakes so I dropped back to fourth.
“After that I got into a good rhythm and I was fighting hard with Nico Rosberg. He got ahead at the first pit-stops, but I bounced back and overtook at the second stops. I was really competitive towards the end when there was a lot of rubber down, and it was enjoyable to be fighting at the front. I started the weekend with a positive feeling and we quickly found the right set-up, so I am extremely happy to be back to a competitive level.”
Glock also had cause for cheer when the chequered flag came down, converting a disappointing grid position of just 13th into a points-paying finish in eighth, hot on the heels of the BMW-Sauber of Robert Kubica, who he tracked throughout the closing stages. Key to the German's result was strong pace on a heavy fuel load in the initial phases of the grand prix and a tactical move by Toyota that released him from behind Trulli later on in a bid to make up some ground. He would fulfil his brief to the letter.
“It was not easy to score points from 13th on the grid,” mused the 26-year-old of his fifth points-scoring finish of the season to-date. “At the start I was a bit unlucky; I got a good launch, but I got caught at the exit of turn one and another car pushed me to the outside. I lost some positions, so maybe the result could have been even better.
“In the end I am happy to score a point, though, because the car was spot-on, really quick with race fuel. It's tricky to make up positions in Formula 1, but our strategy was right, the pit-stops were great and the set-up worked really well so thanks to the team for a good job. Our target before the race was to get into the points, so I am pleased to achieve that and I expect even more at the next race.”
“It is very satisfying to have both drivers finish in the points here,” summarised team principal Tadashi Yamashina, after the Cologne-based outfit strengthened its third position in the constructors' standings from pursuers Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, Williams and Renault. “We are back fighting at the front of the grid, and that is where we want to be at every race. This was the best result we could achieve after qualifying, which is a credit to the good work done by the team.
“However, we obviously want to be back on the podium, so even though we showed very clear improvement, we will continue to push as hard as possible to find more performance. There is still a gap between us and the other top teams, so we want to close that for the next race. I am optimistic for the British Grand Prix; we believe the Silverstone track should suit our car because it plays to our strengths, therefore we want an even better result there.”