Perhaps aware of the Sword of Damocles that seems to be permanently suspended over the heads of Toro Rosso drivers, Jean-Eric Vergne has admitted that he needed to raise his game for qualifying, even if his race performances appear solid.
Despite being tipped as potential replacements for Mark Webber at the senior Red Bull team, neither Vergne or team-mate Daniel Ricciardo have exactly polished their credentials in 2012, with Toro Rosso having gained just half a dozen points over the first six races. The Australian has had the upper hand in qualifying, perhaps aided by his half-season in the top flight with HRT last year, but it is Vergne - who has twice missed the Q1 cut - who holds the advantage when it comes to race day.
"I have to say qualifying is quite hard, compared to what I was expecting," the Frenchman conceded, "I guess it's going to come - I have the speed, [and] I can show it in the racing. In Monaco, unfortunately I hit the wall before I could make a good lap - I wouldn't say [I was] unlucky, but I pushed a bit too hard and didn't get a proper time. It's just a question of time, I have to take it easy. I know I have the speed and I know I have a car to be able to be in the points sometimes."
With a best result of eighth, from round two in Malaysia, rookie Vergne also edges Ricciardo in terms of score, but neither driver has breached the top ten at the end of a race since Sepang, even if both have had chances to do so, none finer than the Frenchman holding down seventh until the closing stages of the Monaco Grand Prix, when he was forced to change tyres and took on intermediates in the hope that late-race rain would intensify.
Now he heads to an equally tricky venue, and has no prior experience of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, even though he rates it high among his favourites.
"On the Playstation, it's a track I like," he smiled, "I've been driving on it as well in the simulator and I quite enjoy it, [so] I hope it's going to be the same in reality."
Having spent time acclimatising to the trans-Atlantic time difference by arriving in Montreal earlier than his rivals, and then taking time out to visit the legendary Cirque du Soleil, Vergne was frustrated to see the Toro Rosso team struggling to keep pace with the midfield.
“The day went smoothly because, even if there were a couple of red flags and a few drops of rain, we managed to get through all our programme, completing a good number of laps," he reported, "On the long runs with more fuel, we were looking better than the short ones, but, at the moment, we are a bit too slow and must work hard to find some speed from the data."
Team-mate Ricciardo was no better off, relying on his first session time, but still sitting a place behind the Frenchman.
“We ran the usual Friday programme, with the exception that we had some new parts to try, including wings aimed specifically at this track which needs the lowest levels of downforce so far this season," he noted, "Apart from that, we also evaluated some updates concerning the exhausts, so it was a productive day. We were lucky to escape the rain, which arrived just at the end of FP2, and that's a good thing, because the forecast is for dry weather from now on.
"The car ran trouble-free so I was able to complete a lot of laps. We can improve the balance, but we have started on the right foot because, even on a dirty track this morning, the car felt quite good and the balance in terms of braking was fine. I expect tomorrow's performance will be more representative of our real pace, so, hopefully, we can qualify well and have a good weekend.”