Toyota had little reason to cheer in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last weekend as the big-budget Japanese manufacturer's TF109 proved to be a long way shy of the front-running pace – with only a lively late-race duel between drivers Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock helping to raise a faint smile.
Both men had looked like exiting stage right in qualifying at the very earliest opportunity in Q1, and whilst Glock indeed could manage no better than 16th – the first time the young German has started inside the bottom five in 13 races this season – a gutsy effort from Trulli narrowly hauled the experienced Italian through into Q2. The Pescara native flirted with breaking into Q3, too, only to miss out in the final reckoning by a scant seven hundredths of a second and wind up a far from unrespectable eleventh.
During the race, though, it was Glock who ultimately emerged with the upper hand, as both drivers began the grand prix on a heavy one-stop fuel load and both lost ground during the course of a frenetic opening lap, slipping back respectively to 13th (Trulli) and 17th (Glock). Following their pit-stops just past half-distance, Glock rejoined the fray from the pit-lane directly alongside his team-mate, leading to an entertaining tussle heading down into turn one between the pair, with Trulli narrowly coming out ahead.
They continued to battle it out over the remainder of the lap as they homed in on the similarly Toyota-powered Williams of Kazuki Nakajima ahead. Trulli managed to get alongside the Japanese ace under braking for the first chicane at the beginning of lap 48, only to bounce across the kerbs and reclaim the track once more alongside the sister red and white machine. When the home hero subsequently ran wide for a second time, Glock needed no invitation and pounced, going on to take the chequered flag eleventh with Trulli a fading 14th.
“It wasn't the result we wanted,” confessed the man from Lindenfels, “but at least it was good entertainment. I had already been fighting with Jarno when I came out of the pits; it was quite tight, but he got ahead. Then towards the end I could see him try to overtake Kazuki Nakajima, but he hit the kerbs and bounced wide.
“We had a nice battle and made sure we kept it clean. In the end I was on the inside so I won the fight. Overall it was never going to be easy to get much out of this race, but Singapore is a different track and we will have some new bits on the car so we should have a decent chance.”
“We expected a difficult race and that's what we got,” concurred the Abruzzese. “I was behind Nakajima for much of the race; I felt I was able to go faster, but it was difficult to overtake. Towards the end I was getting a bit bored to be honest, and I tried really hard to find an opportunity. As soon as I saw a little space I just dived in and braked very late.
“The move was almost okay, but there wasn't quite enough space and unfortunately I hit the kerb and then I had a bit of a fight with Timo. That was good fun and I enjoyed it. I was always on the outside line, but I kept fighting because it is better to have a bit of action and in the end it doesn't make much difference if I am eleventh or 14th. At least I tried, because it wasn't an exciting race for me otherwise.”
The Cologne-based outfit's team principal Tadashi Yamashina acknowledged that a far better showing will be required in the Far East next time out if Toyota is not to find itself being caught by 'customer' operation Williams – as the company's continued participation in the top flight comes increasingly under the microscope.
“It was a disappointing race result for us after a frustrating qualifying,” he summarised, “but we knew it was likely to be hard for us there. At least we provided some exciting action for the fans, with Jarno and Timo battling towards the end of the race; they showed their fighting spirit.
“Monza is a unique circuit which places unique demands on the car, so I am convinced we will improve for the next race in Singapore. It is a completely different kind of track, and we will work hard to get a better result there.”