Jarno Trulli returned to the F1 paddock as a driver in Hungary, and was immediately delighted with what he found when he slipped back into the cockpit of the Team Lotus T128 after a weekend away.
The Italian has long complained about the Hingham squad's power steering system, and sat out the German Grand Prix in favour of Karun Chandhok while a new set-up was finalised ahead of the Budapest weekend. With it installed, the Italian veteran finished 19th on the combined timesheets, ahead of team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, who has generally had the upper hand throughout 2011.
“I'm very happy today," the 37-year old admitted after ending the day half a second clear of his Finnish team-mate, "I want to thank the whole team, everyone at the factory and in the race team because they have all been patient with me and have worked hard to give me the new power steering system and a car that I can really feel.
"As soon as I pulled out this morning, it felt so much better than before so, today, I've been able to start rebuilding my confidence in the car, and working on all the little changes and improvements that help me to find a set-up I can really work with. It's been a really positive day and, for that, my thanks go to everyone in the team.”
Chandhok's presence in the line-up for the Nurburgring cast doubt over Trulli's prolonged involvement with the team, despite the Italian stressing that, not only does he have another year left on his current deal, but that he was also in talks about extending that further. The team was also happy to see him back in harness, with chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne particularly happy with the performance of the revamped T128.
“That was one of the best Fridays we have had this year," he enthused, "We have made some modifications to the diffuser and those changes have definitely worked - and, with Jarno immediately telling us the new power steering system is working exactly as we wanted it to, we have been able to push closer to the cars ahead than we have for a while."
Trulli and Kovalainen will now eye opportunities to pick off one or two of the drivers ahead of them in the pecking order and make it through to the second phase of qualifying at the Hungaroring.