Formula 1's newest and youngest winner Sebastian Vettel revealed that he had extracted the 'maximum' out of his Scuderia Toro Rosso in qualifying for this weekend's inaugural Singapore Grand Prix – as his pre-race objective of scoring points remains on-track.
Having initially struggled during practice around the all-new Marina Bay Street Circuit in the Far Eastern city-state, the Italian Grand Prix hero was right back-on form come the qualifying hour, once again producing a David vs Goliath-esque performance to put his car seventh on the starting grid, the only Red Bull machine to make the top ten and fulfilling STR technical director Giorgio Ascanelli's pre-session prophecy.
“It was a very good qualifying for us,” the 21-year-old German affirmed. “In Q2 we were in a comfortable position and only needed to do one run, and then in Q3 I think we achieved the maximum we could do today.
“After experiencing some difficulties yesterday I did not expect P7, but we did a very good job overnight and we seem to have found the right way forward. I am sure it will be a long and difficult race tomorrow and very hot, but we are starting from a points position, so we will be trying to bring some home.”
That task will, however, be infinitely more difficult for team-mate Sébastien Bourdais, for whom qualifying rapidly degenerated into a nightmare. Having made encouraging progress of late with three successive top ten grid slots in Valencia, Spa and Monza, the record-breaking multiple Champ Car king suffered unidentified handling problems throughout.
His frustration then turned to sadness afterwards when he was informed that Hollywood legend Paul Newman – for whose eponymous Newman-Haas team the Frenchman drove for five years across the Pond – had died from cancer at the age of 83 [see separate story – click here
“I don't know what happened in this session,” a clearly perplexed Bourdais confessed. “Every time I braked, the car went sideways. It was pulling to the left and alternately locking one of the rear wheels. The car behaved completely differently to FP3, but we have not changed anything.
“My first run was messy, and my second run was just weird. There was no way I felt I could attack as I had no stability or grip, with the car running asymmetrically. I also came up behind [Adrian] Sutil in the chicane. Just a bad qualifying.
“On top of all this has come the very sad news that Paul Newman has died. He was a great man and he will be dearly missed, but he has no doubt gone to a better place.”
“Before the session I thought seventh and tenth was possible,” summarised Ascanelli, “and I still believe Bourdais could have done it. As yet, we have seen nothing in the data to indicate an anomaly, so now we will check everything very carefully to understand the situation better.
“I am happy with Vettel's performance, although I didn't expect to have [Nick] Heidfeld in front of us, so maybe he is going shorter on fuel. In Q2, we decided not to send Vettel out for a second run, not so as to save a set of tyres for the race, but to have the possibility of using an additional set in Q3. In the end, his first run was good, but it was still a wise precaution.”