Having ascended the rostrum in Singapore for the first time since Malaysia all the way back in early April, Timo Glock has clearly regained the taste for podium champagne – and is eyeing a second successive climb up the steps on Toyota's home turf at Suzuka this weekend, what would undoubtedly be a popular result indeed.
The Marina Bay outcome was perhaps unexpected given Toyota's frustratingly and increasingly inconsistent form in 2009, which has made it impossible to predict whether the Japanese manufacturer will be competing towards the front of the field or the back on any given weekend.
In Singapore it was a bit of both, with Glock qualifying comfortably inside the top ten and excelling on race day with a superb drive to grab the runner-up spot behind McLaren-Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton, but unwell team-mate Jarno Trulli, by contrast, languishing well down the order throughout, lapping as much as half a second a lap slower than his young German colleague.
The Italian, though, is a big fan of the popular and highly-demanding Suzuka circuit – which has not featured on the F1 calendar since 2006 – and in that year the Pescara native registered the Cologne-based outfit's finest result to-date there, with sixth place, going on to better that at Fuji Speedway last season in fifth. Having not troubled the scorers since Hungary at the end of July, the Abruzzese is palpably keen to get back on the board in front of his team's top brass and loyal home supporters.
“I am excited to be returning to Suzuka,” enthused the 35-year-old, “because it is a very technical and challenging circuit which I like very much. There are a lot of high-speed corners and quick changes of direction, so it is a bit like Spa in that sense and one of my favourite circuits. I am particularly looking forward to seeing what changes have been made to the facilities, although I am pleased the layout is the same with just resurfacing.
“Japan is the home grand prix for the team, so I will give my all to get the best result for Toyota and our Japanese supporters. I have a special relationship with the Japanese fans, so I really enjoy visiting the country – they are always so supportive and enthusiastic. It is a special atmosphere. I had a disappointing weekend in Singapore, but Suzuka is a totally different track and we should be competitive there; we hope to be very strong, so I hope to race well and get a result to match.”
“Suzuka is a really special circuit,” concurred the in-form Glock. “It is very fast and the first sector is just unbelievable in an F1 car, a really enjoyable experience. It is five years since I drove an F1 car at Suzuka, but the layout hasn't changed and I'm sure the fans will still make it a pleasure to race there. It's a really good fun circuit to race at, because not only is the layout so fantastic, but the fans make it feel special too, especially when you are a Toyota driver.
“It's not an easy track to drive and you really have to be completely concentrated to get the best lap time, but this makes it so much fun. It was fantastic to finish on the podium in Singapore. I would love to be challenging for the podium again in Toyota's home race to give something back to our team – that would be a great result. Standing on the podium for Toyota in Japan would be perfect.”
Those sentiments are echoed by team principal Tadashi Yamashina, as Toyota prepares to enter the grand prix as the only home-grown operation on the grid – following the departure of Honda – for the first time since 2005, when Ralf Schumacher earned the marque its maiden pole position at the highest level. With the TF109s set to take to the track in the same specification as they did in Singapore due to the single-week gap between the two races, hopes are unquestionably high.
“We are very much looking forward to our home grand prix,” affirmed Yamashina-san. “After two great years at Fuji Speedway the race returns to Suzuka this season, but despite the change of venue we are equally determined to achieve a positive result. We will have a lot of encouragement from our fans, our partners and Toyota employees at this race, which is very motivating for the whole team.
“This creates some positive pressure, because we know our supporters are hoping for a strong result and we are determined to meet their expectations. Everyone back in Cologne has worked extremely hard to develop the new package we saw in Singapore and will use again in Japan. This shows we are fighting for every tenth of a second right to the end of the season.”