Off the back of four top ten qualifying showings from the last five grands prix, Scuderia Toro Rosso star Sébastien Bourdais maintained his stellar recent form by lapping up towards the sharp end of proceedings once again around the Shanghai International Circuit today.
Though he had never so much as set eyes upon the track before, the Frenchman was immediately on the pace, lapping eighth-quickest in the morning session and improving to seventh-fastest later on in the afternoon – as he bids to put the pain of his contentious Fuji penalty behind him by returning to the points in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.
“It's my first time here,” admitted the record-breaking four-time Champ Car king, who is fighting to keep his seat in Formula 1 in 2009. “I like the track, even if it seems quite hard on tyres because of all the long corners. Aside from that it's a nice combination, requiring different techniques for different parts – interesting.
“We seem to have found good pace right from the morning session, and we kept the momentum going through the day. Hopefully we can do the same tomorrow and have a good qualifying.
“Right at the end I lost the rear of the car on my first lap of my final run at the first corner. Maybe I was just a bit too optimistic…”
Team-mate Sebastian Vettel professed himself somewhat less satisfied with progress at the end of proceedings on the opening day, the sport's youngest-ever winner encountering balance issues on his way to a lowly 15th position in the final reckoning, just under four tenths adrift of Bourdais – albeit vowing to bounce back when it counts.
“We are not where we want to be,” the young German confessed, “although the timesheets make it look worse than it is. The circuit is in quite good shape and there is some graining on the tyres, but in terms of the car set-up we still have work to do to get the balance of the car right.
“We will have to take a good look at the data to see how to improve tomorrow. There's a bit of work to do, but that's our job!”