Italian veteran snubs critics with searing one-lap pace on race-day.
Jarno Trulli, one of F1 s most formidable one-lap specialists, is often criticised for failing to deliver the goods on race day. But in a combative charge to fourth place in last week s Malaysian Grand Prix – Toyota s first major points haul in over a year – the Italian veteran demonstrated why his qualifying skills are a decisive force in the race as well.
Toyota s massive step forward in performance was confirmed on-track last week as Jarno Trulli powered his way to fourth place after planting his TF108 on the fourth row of the grid in qualifying, a mere tenth of a second behind the McLaren duo.
Key to Trulli s triumph was a string of blindingly fast laps at the end of the race as Hamilton, hampered earlier in the race by a bodged pit-stop, stormed up to the Toyota s gearbox in pursuit of fourth.
The 33-year-old one-lap guru, who scored Toyota s first podium in Sepang three years ago, was not about to relinquish his position and staunchly fought off the Briton with some aggressive driving and lap-times on a par to his hunter.
Ironically for his critics, it was his searing one-lap pace on low fuel that enabled him to keep Hamilton at bay. Trulli later revealed that the last stint was more like a qualifying run:
“In the final laps it was Lewis Hamilton s turn to give me a hard time but I just kept fighting and the last 13 laps were more like a qualifying run, with no breathing space at all,â€ exclaimed an ecstatic Trulli.
“I was just pushing and pushing. I was on the prime tyre at the end and we were having a tougher time on hard tyres; with the option tyre we performed better.
“I was really trying, I gave everything and fought to the end and made it by a couple of laps maybe. Hamilton had caught me on the last lap or two but getting past is a different thing.”
The demanding characteristics of the Sepang International Circuit with its complex mix of long straight and tight corners mean that a car that performs well should be well suited to the rest of the tracks on the calendar.
This bodes well for Trulli who is adamant that Toyota can challenge for the points in the forthcoming races.
“We have to continuously improve our car performance if we are to challenge the top teams but I think we can fight for the top six again.
“The top cars are a little bit out of reach but we showed in Malaysia that we have the potential to get a really good result when we get everything right with the car and the team does a perfect job.â€