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Toro Rosso 'more competitive' in Texas
18 November 2012
Jean-Eric Vergne was looking delighted and not a little relieved to have finally escaped from the ignominy of Q1 elimination, especially after he went on to clinch 14th place on the grid for the 2012 F1 United States Grand Prix in Texas - his best qualifying performance since the season opener in Melbourne.
"I think the team has worked well so far this weekend to produce a car that seems a bit more competitive than in the past few races," said Vergne. "Maybe I could have got a bit more out of the car this afternoon, perhaps found a couple of tenths."
"Jev did a good job this afternoon to outpace both Saubers and Rosberg," said the Toro Rosso's chief engineer Laurent Mekies.
It was a strong comeback for the Frenchman, who lost time in Free Practice 3 in the morning after he hit a kerb and damaged the Toro Rosso, meaning he had to sit out much of the hour-long session back in the pit lane.
"After going over the kerbs and damaging the suspension this morning, I obviously lost some track time and without that, I might have had a better understanding of the tyres," he agreed.
Unfortunately for the team, Vergne's usual spot in the Q1 drop zone was taken by his team mate Daniel Ricciardo, and Vergne was careful not to look as though he were taking any pleasure in that turnaround of fortunes.
"It doesn't mean much that I beat my team-mate today," Vergne insisted. "He had some difficulties in the first session."
Ricciardo agreed that Saturday's qualifying session on the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas had been "a difficult and frustrating session" for him.
"We knew it would take a long time for the tyres to come in, especially as the asphalt is still so slippery," he said. "We never really got them to work properly as I got stuck in traffic in the early part and then came the yellow flags when I was about to try for my last two laps.
"It meant I never got a clean run. This is one of my worst qualifying performances of the season," he added, ruing the first time he had failed to make it through to Q2 in seven races. "I just want to put it behind me now and aim to have a better Sunday, which should be entirely within our capabilities."
Vergne concurred: "The car feels good, there are plenty of overtaking opportunities here, so my plan tomorrow is to go hunting for some more points," he said.
"Our starting position certainly does not rule us out of fighting for points," agreed Mekies. As to whether the team would go along with the expected trend for a single pit stop approach to the race, Mekies was hedging his bets
"Although it is the most likely scenario, a one-stop strategy is not inevitable - because no one has that much long run data from Friday and we have never raced here before," he pointed out. "All the teams spent a lot of time working out how to get the best out of the medium Pirellis in qualifying trim and maybe a bit less time thinking about the race, which could make for an interesting afternoon!"
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