Timo Glock gave both the Japanese crowds and his Toyota employers reason to cheer by storming to the top of the timesheets at the end of the opening day's practice at Fuji Speedway today – despite having never driven the track before.
The young German has increasingly gone from strength-to-strength over the course of his maiden full season in Formula 1, and after bedding himself in with just the 18th-quickest time in the morning session, the 2007 GP2 Series Champion took a full 2.5 seconds off his earlier best effort in the afternoon to see off former double world champion Fernando Alonso and current world championship leader Lewis Hamilton to annex the top spot.
“That was a good day,” remarked the 26-year-old, after delighting Toyota by leading proceedings around a circuit owned by the big-budget Japanese manufacturer. “This was the first time I have driven at the Fuji Speedway, so I had to learn the track this morning.
“It didn't take too long – two or three laps – but it's not an easy circuit. It's especially difficult to find the right compromise for the long high-speed straight, and the last sector which is very technical.
“We sorted out a lot of stuff, though, and we brought everything together for the second practice, which went well. I had a nice lap near the beginning of the session, and it's great for the team to end up quickest on Friday here in Japan.
“So far I'm happy and it would be nice to keep the position like this for the whole weekend. That will obviously be difficult, but hopefully the local fans will give us an extra boost.”
Team-mate Jarno Trulli was less spectacular, winding up exactly half a second adrift of Glock – albeit equating to a whole nine places lower down the order in tenth. The experienced Italian admitted he is hoping to return to the points in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix after a run of ill-fortune has seen him go three races now without adding to his tally, and fall two positions to ninth in the drivers' standings.
“Today was a nice, smooth day,” the 34-year-old confirmed. “We tested several things in order to improve the car's performance. Timo and I carried out different programmes in order to collect data from all areas of the car and it went well.
“This is Toyota's home race so it is an important event for us. There is no extra pressure, but we just really want to do well in front of our home fans. As a team we get a lot of support in Japan, but the local people have also been big fans of me personally down the years.