Jean-Eric Vergne has defended himself from criticism of his driving in the first part of qualifying for the 2012 F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka, explaining that the incident in which he appeared to block Bruno Senna was an unfortunate result of his having to avoid a slower car ahead.

Senna was furious with the Toro Rosso driver after it appeared that Vergne's driving wrecked his final attempt at improving his times, which meant that the Williams ended up being eliminated from qualifying at the end of Q1, but Vergne insisted that his own qualifying had been adversely affected by the incident as well.

"I was catching Glock on my flying lap and I had to slow because of that," explained Vergne. "I saw Bruno was coming very quickly and unfortunately he caught me at the chicane where there is not much room.

"I knew I had to let him past and moved as much to the outside as I could, even though I knew I would not be in the best position to come out of the corner," the Frenchman continued. "After that, he slowed a lot and I had to pass him again on the straight, otherwise I would not have set a proper time."

Vernge himself made it through to Q2 but ended up having to settle for 17th position, although he should move up a spot on the grid on Sunday morning as a result of Michael Schumacher's ten-place grid penalty.

"I'm not so happy with today's qualifying as we have struggled to find the right balance on our car all weekend," he admitted. "For qualifying, maybe we went too far the other way in terms of set-up and when the balance is not right, you lose a lot of time in the high speed corners.

"But hopefully the race will be better tomorrow," he added. "It usually is."

His team mate Daniel Ricciardo is only one place ahead of him on the grid, but seemingly streets ahead in terms of satisfaction with the day's work.

"Without taking the grid position into consideration, this afternoon's session was great fun," said the Australian. "Driving this circuit on low fuel and with the best tyre of the weekend- a new set of options - is very enjoyable."

When it came to Q2, however, Ricciardo had no illusions about where the team stood in relation to their rivals.

"Today, it was really just a fight between myself and Jean-Eric in Q2 because the others were a little bit too far out in front," he said. "However, it's not too discouraging, because on the positive side, we have definitely made progress since yesterday and if we can find another step forward for tomorrow, then hopefully we can sneak into the points again."

"From the grid positions we secured today, we can still aspire to score points tomorrow," agreed the team's new technical director James Key. "But it won't be easy.

"As we have seen in the last few races, our race pace is better than in qualifying because our drivers have done a good job of learning how to manage the tyres," he added.



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