His breakthrough podium finish last year aside, Timo Glock has confessed that he has not traditionally enjoyed the best of fortunes around the Hungaroring, but the Toyota star is confident of one thing as the F1 circus arrives in Budapest this weekend – he will be quick.
This time twelve months ago, Glock silenced his doubters by finishing as runner-up to McLaren-Mercedes' Heikki Kovalainen in the Hungarian Grand Prix, after artfully fending off the advances of 2007 world champion in a visibly faster Ferrari in the closing stages. Taking the chequered flag more than 25 seconds clear of team-mate Jarno Trulli, it remains the young German's finest result from 31 starts at the highest level to-date – and though he contends that other performances have arguably been stronger, it will always represent a watershed in his career, one that only four years earlier had looked to be sunk without a trace.
“It was a really special moment for me to be on the podium in Formula 1 for the first time,” he admitted, “and it was great to be fighting right at the front. Everything came together and it worked out perfectly. It was the race immediately after my accident at Hockenheim, so maybe it surprised some people to see me being so competitive – but the truth was that Hockenheim was a turning-point, because we got the car really working well for me. After that, the fantastic result in Budapest was the start of a great run in the second half of the season.
“It's what I have worked so hard to achieve all through my career. When I left Formula 1 at the end of 2004 I knew it would be really tough to get back, but I never gave up and I gave everything in Champ Cars and GP2 to get my chance. Getting back to Formula 1 was just the beginning, though, and it was a great moment to stand on the podium in Hungary after finishing second. That gave me a lot of satisfaction and I really liked the feeling. I am determined to do it many more times!
“It was the best result of last year, but I was also very proud of my performances in several races, particularly finishing fourth in Singapore and Canada and some other races where the result maybe wasn't as good but I drove really well. This year I was on the podium again in Malaysia, so that is one of my best performances as well; it's always a highlight when you finish on the podium.
“In a way it is more special when you are the podium for the first time, because it is a unique experience and you have nothing to compare it to – but it's always a great feeling when you have performed to the maximum and achieved a really strong result. My third place in Malaysia also felt great because it was the result of a fantastic team effort, and I'm sure my next podium will be pretty special too.”
That 'next podium', the 27-year-old clearly hopes, will come in the Hungarian Grand Prix, the start of the second half of the 2009 F1 campaign. Whilst Toyota's form from one weekend to the next has been difficult to accurately predict this year – witness the front row lock-out to back row lock-out in the space of just four weeks from Bahrain to Monaco – Glock is hopeful that the TF109 will go well around the tight and twisty layout of the Hungaroring, where overtaking is very much at a premium and qualifying holds more significance than at most circuits on the calendar.
“It's quite tricky to judge before Friday practice,” cautioned the Lindenfels native. “We have made a big improvement in slower corners in the past few races, which is quite encouraging going into the Hungarian Grand Prix. It is usually pretty hot in Hungary as well, and our car has good cooling efficiency so that should work in our favour. I am reasonably optimistic our car will go well, but we'll have to wait and see.
“I have always been quick there, right from my first visit in 2004 when I was a Formula 1 test driver taking part in Friday practice. I was on the pace from the first session, and that continued when I went back in GP2. I was second and fifth in 2006, but I was really unlucky the next year because I qualified on pole and there was a wheel problem in my pit-stop which ruined my race, then in the sprint race I was fighting for the podium before a mechanical problem. In terms of results Budapest has been average for me, but I have always been competitive there. It's just a fun circuit which is quite challenging for a driver; it feels like a kart track when you are driving a Formula 1 car there.
“My goal this season is simply to score as many points and podiums as possible. I don't have specific goals in the way I did for 2008, when I wanted to get 20 points and finish in the top ten in the drivers' championship. My second place in Hungary started the ball rolling and I achieved both my targets. This year I just want to be as quick as possible from race-to-race, scoring as many points as I can. So far we have had some ups-and-downs, but it is mainly positive.”