Jean-Eric Vergne was fuming with five minutes of first qualifying to go, as the Sao Paulo rain appeared to be stymieing his shot at a decent grid position for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Frenchman had expected more than 17th on the grid after showing well in similar conditions during free practice, but faced early elimination unless he was able to pull something out of the bag on his last run. His ire was initially directed at the Toro Rosso crew around him, puzzled by the delayed timing of his first run with rain expected resume over Interlagos at any minute.
His emotions after eventually clinching a spot on the outside of row four were very different, relief of having produced the goods with just seconds remaining in Q1 mixed with the delight of then not only making it through Q2 but putting up a decent showing in the final ten-car run-off.
“I am happy for myself and for the team, because to get both cars into the top eight is a great result,” Vergne noted, “We were not really as quick as I had expected to be because, usually, in other races this year, we have a very good car in the wet. Since Friday, I have been struggling a bit more than usual in these changeable conditions so, even if qualifying was not easy, starting from eighth is very encouraging, especially as it was a bit touch and go to get into Q2.
“We didn't time our first run very well but, after that, I managed a very good lap to get through to the next part of the session. Points definitely have to be my target now - but anything can happen here in the rain.”
Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, in his last race for STR before graduating to the full Red Bull line-up for 2014, will start one spot ahead of the Frenchman, having had a less stressful progression through the three sessions.
“It was tricky out there this afternoon but, since last year, we have often demonstrated that we can be competitive in the wet,” the Australian pointed out, “It's the best qualifying the team has had in a long time and I am very happy that both cars are in the top eight. I don't think there was much between me and 'Jev' today.”
Proving that you can't please all the people all the time, the team's head of vehicle performance, Laurent Mekies, suggested that the two drivers could have been even higher up the grid, although he was happy to accept their best two-car qualifying performance since Italy two months ago.
“It was a long and complicated session for everyone, which ended in what is, overall, a very good result for us,” Mekies confirmed, “Seventh and eighth is our best qualifying of the year and it's also the first time since Monza we got both cars into Q3.
“We started a bit on the back foot, nearly getting caught out by going out a bit late for the first run, but both drivers improved on the second run, after which we had a more straightforward Q2. In the final part, we were up against some very quick cars and, maybe, we had the potential to do a little bit better than this seventh and eighth, but we will start ahead of all our midfield competitors tomorrow, and I hope we can convert today's performance into a lot of points tomorrow.”