Not since the Japanese Grand Prix in 2005 – or 55 races ago – has a Toyota achieved a front row qualifying spot in Formula 1, but Jarno Trulli changed all that at Interlagos with an inspired run in Q3 to split the two Ferraris at the head of the pack.
The Italian veteran has enjoyed arguably the finest campaign of his successful twelve-year career in the top flight in 2008, racking up 30 points and only four times failing to make it through to the final top ten shoot-out in qualifying.
Whilst Trulli has on three occasions put his TF108 on the second row of the grid, though, his São Paolo effort – just under four tenths away from pole – marked his highest starting slot since mid-2005, when he achieved back-to-back front row positions for the big-budget Japanese concern at Indianapolis and Magny-Cours.
Having lapped tenth-quickest in final free practice – albeit only just over three tenths shy of the top spot, such is the closeness of the field in Brazil this weekend – the 34-year-old from Pescara comfortably made it through both Q1 and Q2 before not once but twice producing inch-perfect laps to divide the scarlet challenge.
Not only has that put him in the perfect position from which to end his season in style – around a circuit where he has previously taken the chequered flag no higher than fourth – but it also came somewhat against the odds, as he explained.
“Before coming here I knew this was one of those difficult, technical tracks where I could be strong and my car could be very competitive,” related the delighted former Monaco Grand Prix winner. “I have been preparing and waiting for this grand prix and now here I am.
“We have been competitive all weekend and I played my cards during qualifying, saving my tyres and getting ready for Q3. In the end I put in a really good lap. It's ironic, because for the first time in my career I thought I might not make it on Friday because I was feeling really ill with 'flu.
“After this result I have to thank the whole team for the job – the mechanics, the engineers and also the doctor! I am really happy for everyone, and this shows the progress we have made this season. Now we hope to finish on a high.”
Team-mate Timo Glock was not quite as satisfied at the close of the session, having lapped a competitive fifth-quickest in both Q1 and Q2 – notwithstanding a brief spin on the exit of turn one in the former – only to wind up almost a second-and-a-half adrift of Trulli when it really mattered, albeit with more fuel on-board.