Jarno Trulli might admit that Sunday's podium finish in the French Grand Prix was unexpected, but claims that, with further improvements to the TF108, more could be on the cards.

The Toyota team headed to Magny-Cours determined to put up a good result to mark the passing of former team boss Ove Andersson, but few expected to be 'best of the rest' behind the dominant Ferraris. However, Trulli qualified an excellent fifth fastest, which became fourth when Lewis Hamilton's penalty was applied, and the Italian duly overcame Fernando Alonso's lightly-fuelled Renault to run third for much of the race.

"At the beginning of the weekend, I wasn't expecting to be challenging for third place, that's for sure," he admitted, "However, we had some new aero bits on the car which we expected to bring an improvement and, as the weekend went on, I felt we were looking quite strong.

"Qualifying fourth was a great result and, after that, I thought I had a very good chance to finish in the top six and maybe push for the podium - if everything went well. I was really fired up for the race because I thought there was the possibility for a fantastic result and I'm so happy it all worked out.

"It was just a fantastic feeling [to stand on the podium], and it was a great reward for everyone in the team because we had a perfect weekend. I know everyone back in Cologne is working really hard to improve the car and, at Magny-Cours, my engineers, my mechanics and everyone performed to the maximum. It was great to share that moment with them on the podium and to see the satisfaction in the garage afterwards. This gives us a big boost for the second half of the season."

It wasn't an easy race for Trulli, however, with persistent pressure from behind culminating in a last-lap challenge from a recovering Heikki Kovalainen, who should have started one place behind the Italian had it not been for a blocking penalty.

"I was pushing to the maximum all race, and fighting really hard as always," Trulli reported, "It wasn't easy but, after I passed Fernando at the start, I knew we had a chance, so I never gave up and really pushed every lap.

"I had to be strong to stay ahead because we were fighting with cars which were a little bit quicker than us. It was very exciting at the end of the race, battling with Heikki. We had some rain and it is harder to be in front in these conditions because you don't know exactly what to expect at each corner - it is easier to follow. Heikki was very close to me and putting me under a lot of pressure, but I was determined not to lose position.

"With two laps left, he pulled alongside, but I was strong and didn't give up. I took the inside line, so we went wheel to wheel. I didn't want to lose that position because I could see the podium getting close. We didn't touch because I gave him just enough room - it was like racing karts, and I didn't expect to have the chance to race like that in F1!

"It was a fun fight, and even better for me because I was able to keep position. It was tough, but I was determined to get a great result, especially at this race because of what happened to Ove Andersson. We wanted to pay tribute to him because he did so much for this team. It was a shame he couldn't see such a great result, but it was fantastic to dedicate my third place to him."

Asked whether the upturn in Toyota's fortunes was purely down to improvements made to the car over its 2007 predecessor, Trulli admitted that he liked to think that he was also playing a part in the team's revival. The Italian now shares seventh place in the drivers' table with Mark Webber, while Toyota lies just a point shy of fourth places in the teams' championship.

"This year, we are much more competitive," he acknowledged, "The car seems more balanced and I am able to push more because it is very drivable. Quite simply, the car is quicker than last year, and that means we are more competitive.

"We have already scored a lot more points than in 2007, which shows the improvement we have made - and that is thanks to the hard work of everyone in the team. We know we are still a little behind the fastest cars, but we have shown that, at some races, we can fight with McLaren and BMW. We want to do this more often and, to do so, we must improve the car even more.

"I am sure we are heading in the right direction and I think I am driving better than ever. I have experience and I believe I improve every year because you always learn from mistakes or from your experiences. With a competitive car, I can fight at the front, I am sure of that.

"In France, I showed how determined and hard-headed I am. I fought to the end and really enjoyed the battle - and I would love to fight like that for podium positions at every race!"

 

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