Jarno Trulli may have been suffering from a bout of the 'flu upon arriving in São Paulo for this weekend's season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix, but he showed few ill-effects as he produced a brilliant performance to put Toyota right in amongst the front-runners in changeable conditions in opening practice.
After narrowly trailing team-mate Timo Glock in the morning running to the tune of just over a tenth of a second, the experienced Italian improved by more than a second later on to vault his way up the order into third spot – ahead of Formula 1 World Champion-elect Lewis Hamilton, and less than two tenths shy of the eventual pace-setter, former team-mate Fernando Alonso.
As he bids to stave off the threat of Scuderia Toro Rosso star Sebastian Vettel to hang onto eighth position in the drivers' standings at the final hurdle, the 34-year-old acknowledged it had been a good start.
“I was ill with the 'flu yesterday,” the man from Abruzzo related, “so I took the time to rest in order to help me recover. Today I have been feeling better and I was able to drive with no problems.
“We had a good Friday session in general, going through the set-up work and looking at tyre choice for the race. We worked on balancing the car and we had some success.
“We still have some areas to improve, but in general I'm happy and we have shown a good level of competitiveness so far. It's only Friday and ideally we would like higher track temperatures, but all-in-all this has been a good day.”
“It was a pretty difficult day for me,” countered Glock, who by contrast struggled to find a satisfactory balance as he eventually wound up a lowly 15th on the final timesheets. “This is one of the races I did for Jordan in 2004, so I have experience of this track. That was a tricky race for me, but the track surface is not as bumpy this year.
“Still, the car felt a bit strange so it's hard to understand where we are at the moment. We will have to analyse the data and see what we can do to make it right for tomorrow. Hopefully we can find a good direction, otherwise I will hope for rain! Whatever the weather, we should aim to make the points again as we did in China.”
Toyota's best result in Brazil to-date – and indeed one of only three points-scoring finishes from 14 starts in the country – was the sixth place registered by Mika Salo back during the big-budget Japanese concern's maiden campaign in the top flight six years ago. The squad would dearly love to better that this weekend as it bids a fond goodbye to team manager and long-standing employee Richard Cregan, who is leaving for a new role in Abu Dhabi in preparation for F1's arrival in the United Arab Emirates at the end of next season.