Timo Glock has praised F1 2010 newcomer Virgin Racing for having outfoxed some of the sport's traditional big-hitters to make it through to Q2 during qualifying for the first time at a rain-swept Sepang ahead of tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix – a performance that he hopes serves to provide 'motivation' for the team after its well-documented recent troubles.
The only one of the new entries yet to see the chequered flag this season in the opening two races in Bahrain and Australia, Virgin was also rocked last weekend by the realisation that a design error means its fuel tank is not large enough for Glock and team-mate Lucas Di Grassi to reach the end of races in any case, unless they slow down significantly in the closing stages to preserve fuel.
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur, the Richard Branson-led outfit was in desperate need of good fortune. Whilst Di Grassi again found his efforts struck down by reliability woes – as a suspected blocked filter in the Brazilian's Cosworth-powered VR-01 in FP3 led to the removal of the rear end of the car to investigate, and very nearly caused him to miss qualifying altogether, as the 25-year-old found himself able only to complete a few laps at the very end of Q1 when the track was at its wettest – Glock gave the team just the boost it was looking for.
“It's been a very good weekend for us so far,” enthused the German. “We've had no real problems with the car and we've been able to do proper work during every session. Qualifying went quite smoothly considering the rain at the start of the session; it was critical to get out on time and my lap in Q1 was really good, getting me into Q2. It was good to see us do a better job than some of the top teams – and as a result they will be starting behind us!
“Q2 wasn't perfect, as we came in too early and that cost us the place against Heikki [Kovalainen]. In general, though, we have to be happy with what we have achieved today. It's great for the team and there is now a lot of motivation for tomorrow. It looks like it could be a crazy race, so we have to stay focussed – and stay on the track – and we'll see how it all ends.”
“Once more some problems affected us today, and we had to rebuild parts of the car between free practice and qualifying,” added Di Grassi, who went on to pay tribute to the heroic effort from his crew to get him out for qualifying at all. “It was touch-and-go whether we would even get the car out at all for quali, but the mechanics did an incredible job and because of that we were able to do at least a couple of laps to make sure the car was working well.
“While it has been a disappointing day for me personally, it has been a good day for the team so we all have to be pleased for that. We look forward to the race tomorrow and hope that brings better things, including achieving our target of finishing our first race.”
With Glock out-qualifying the likes of recent F1 World Champions Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, indeed, the former GP2 Series Champion will likely find his mirrors full of McLaren-Mercedes silver and Ferrari scarlet when the starting lights go out on Sunday – and regardless of what happens in 24 hours' time, for the much-maligned squad that has to be something worth celebrating.
“Today has been a great day for everyone involved in Virgin Racing – a clear step forward for the team,” enthused technical director Nick Wirth. “FP3 this morning was yet another smooth session with both cars, during which we continued set-up work with encouraging results. Despite still not running qualifying fuel loads, it was nice to again demonstrate the underlying potential of this car and its unique design process.
“At the end of FP3 we were unhappy with the consistency of fuel pressure on Lucas' car, and we elected to perform a very challenging fuel filter change before qualifying in order to maximise our chances on Sunday. Lucas' crew did a great job in getting the car out to record at least some timed laps in Q1. I'm just sorry for Lucas that we didn't get him out at the beginning of the session when the track was drier.
“Timo continued to demonstrate our potential in Q1, and whilst some of our more experienced competitors elected to stay in the garage at the optimum time, Timo made it through to Q2. The Q2 session was tricky. We were running with all our weather prediction services warning us of an imminent downpour, so unfortunately we ran our last set of intermediates a little bit early, which cost us a place. Looking at our times from earlier today, though, that won't matter in the race.”