While Romain Grosjean stole headlines with third place in qualifying on his return to F1 at the Australian Grand Prix, the other two Frenchmen in the field also performed admirably to join him on the grid.
Jean-Eric Vergne was not expected to have problems making the grid, but the World Series by Renault graduate surpassed expectation by almost making it into the pole position shoot-out. While the Toro Rosso team showed well on occasion in pre-season testing, neither the Frenchman or team-mate Daniel Ricciardo were considered top ten candidates, but the Australian took full advantage of the mishaps that befell Ferrari and Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen to make the final group, while Vergne missed out by a tenth of a second.
“That was not bad, even if it is a bit disappointing to have missed out on Q3 by a very small margin," he smiled, "I got a very good lap in Q1, a bit less so in Q2, but I still have a lot to learn at this stage and the main thing is that everything went well and I am enjoying all the new experiences.
"There are many positives to be taken from the way qualifying went and I feel we have a car that should work well in tomorrow's race. I am looking forward to it – it should be fun. My target for tomorrow? To score some points.”
Compatriot Charles Pic went into the Melbourne weekend with precious little seat time in the Marussia MR01, following its late completion, but built up both his confidence and experience during free practice and used that to shadow veteran team-mate Timo Glock in qualifying. Although both went out in the opening phase of the session, neither was in danger of missing the 107 per cent cut and will occupy the final row of the grid on raceday, rewarding a monumental effort by the whole team to get an untested car through its first qualifying session with no reliability issues
“Today has been non-stop and we have had a lot of work to do in a short amount of time," Pic confirmed, "Everyone has worked so hard to get us to a good position for qualifying and the race, and I would like to thank the whole team for their support, which has been incredible.
"We haven't had the best preparation and there is more to come that we don't even know about yet. I'm happy for today and for the team. Tomorrow is another day and I have to keep pushing hard for the race. I am very excited but I want to stay focused and leave the weekend knowing I got everything I could ask from myself in my first race.”
"Charles has faced an enormous challenge and should feel very proud of what he has achieved so far," team principal John Booth confirmed, "He is very hungry and will be exciting to watch, for sure. As for tomorrow, we need to keep our feet on the ground and our minds focused because the race may well expose some of the frailties of the package that we have not yet had the chance to explore.”