Renault was celebrating its first double top ten qualifying performance of the F1 2010 campaign to-date in Istanbul as Vitaly Petrov finally converted his impressive race pace into one-lap speed ahead of this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix, ably backing team-mate Robert Kubica up with a strong run to ninth place.
As Kubica did his usual solid job and arguably punched above his car's weight again in out-performing both Ferraro drivers to wind up seventh – and less than two tenths of a second shy of taking the scalps of Mercedes Grand Prix duo Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher into the bargain – Petrov similarly excelled, lapping an eye-catching fourth-fastest in Q1 and seventh in Q2 before topping it off with P9 in the top ten shoot-out, just over four tenths adrift of the Pole.
“It feels really good to have made it into Q3 and to be starting the race from ninth,” enthused the man they justifiably call the 'Vyborg Rocket'. “So far it has been a really smooth weekend for me with no problems, and my engineers and mechanics have done an excellent job to give me a car that I feel really happy with.
“The car is easy to drive and we have managed to improve the performance with each session, so I knew we had a good chance to be in top ten today. It's going to be a long race tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to a close fight with the cars around me and hopefully scoring some more points for the team.”
“I'm pretty happy with my qualifying session because seventh position is about what we were expecting after free practice,” added Kubica. “The only issue I had was with the soft tyres, because I didn't feel totally comfortable on them today and so I couldn't find those final few tenths that I needed to be higher up the grid.
“However, my lap in Q3 was good and we can't be too disappointed with this result. It's also nice to see Vitaly up there with me in ninth and I think we will have strong race pace tomorrow, which means we should be able to score some good points.”
That optimism was shared by both the Enstone-based outfit's team principal Eric Boullier and chief race engineer Alan Permane, as the squad that late last year looked to be in all manner of disarray is now eyeing the genuine prospect of splitting the title contenders on pure pace.
“To see both cars make it through to the top ten is an excellent result for the team and puts us in a good position for the race tomorrow,” underlined Boullier. “Both cars have run perfectly all weekend, and the developments we have brought to this race have continued to add good performance to the car.
“Robert's seventh place continues his strong run of qualifying performances, and it's great to see Vitaly join him in Q3 for the first time. He has been close to Robert's pace all weekend, and has not put a foot wrong in any of the sessions. We know that the car has good race pace here, so we are hopeful of seeing both cars bring home points tomorrow.”
“Overall it has been an excellent day,” concurred Permane. “The drivers are happy with their cars, and both free practice and qualifying have been trouble-free sessions for us. One of the big decisions today was to determine which would be the best tyre for qualifying, because it was very close between the soft and the hard compound. In the end the soft was slightly quicker, so that's the one we concentrated on for Q3.
“Robert put in a good lap to qualify seventh, and it's great to see Vitaly reach Q3 for the first time and qualify in ninth place. For the race tomorrow, we are targeting good points finishes with both cars.”