Scuderia Toro Rosso's ambition of making it through to the final phase of qualifying at the Korean Grand Prix came up agonisingly short, but the team remains confident of adding to its points tally on raceday.
With neither McLaren nor Force India making it through to Q3 at the Korea International Circuit, the door was left ajar for either Daniel Ricciardo or Jean-Eric Vergne to progress but, instead, it was Sauber that took advantage of others' misfortune, with both Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez progressing to the top ten shoot-out.
Toro Rosso, meanwhile, had to settle for 13th and 16th, although Ricciardo's margin was a matter of decimal places, amplifying his frustration.
“I'm definitely not happy with my position and, when the gap to the top ten is so small, you have to also be disappointed,” the Red Bull-bound Aussie sighed, “I would have liked to have been in the car for the full hour.”
Despite missing the cut, Ricciardo was confident that his team had managed to squeeze more performance out of his STR8 during practice.
“Compared to where we were yesterday, we have managed to improve the car, but we have not been able to make enough progress to be more competitive than this,” he conceded, “Now we have to look towards the race and maybe the only bright side of not getting into Q3 is that we have one more fresh set of the supersoft tyres. Hopefully, we can make good use of it and then we will see if we have enough pace to go looking for points.”
Team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne was less happy than the Australian, having failed to better 16th with an ill-handling car.
“Since yesterday, we have struggled to set up the car the way we wanted, but hard work from the team meant that, this afternoon, at least the car was the best it has been so far this weekend,” he acknowledged, “However, as the other teams also make progress, the improvement on our car for this afternoon was not enough to move us up the order.”
The Frenchman finds himself in the same boat at Ricciardo when it comes to tyres for Sunday, and is hoping that fresh rubber will provide an advantage over the other drivers looking to sneak into the top ten.
“We should be able to start each stint on new tyres and that could make some difference,” he said, “I am usually optimistic, but I think points will be a difficult target tomorrow. I will give it my best shot and see if I can claw my way back up towards the top ten.”
“Naturally, we are disappointed not to have got into Q3, as that is always our target, and nine hundredths of a second would have done it for us,” technical director James Key lamented, “The timesheet was incredibly tight today, [but] we have not had the consistency of balance nor the outright pace all weekend that we should have had.
“However, with Daniel in 13th place on the grid, it's not unreasonable for us to aspire to points in the race. We now have a new set of options and that will be important tomorrow, as the tyres will not last that long and we will be hoping to maximise our stint length.”