Toyota establish themselves as major players in F1’s new order with blistering Bahrain pace
Jarno Trulli took pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix with teammate Timo Glock locking out an all Toyota front row for the first time.
The Italian veteran, renowned for his single lap pace, posted a blistering 1:34.297 around the desert circuit, three tenths of a second faster than Timo Glock and over half a second quicker than Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
The margin between Toyota and the Brawn GP drivers suggest the team have opted for an aggressive strategy in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, but the Japanese giant is no less a threat to the championship leaders.
“I m thrilled to be back on pole again,” said Trulli, celebrating his fourth career pole, his first since the United States Grand Prix in 2005. “This weekend has gone well and it s great to be starting at the front tomorrow.”
“In fact this afternoon didn t go quite as smoothly as yesterday because I had a bit of a problem with my brakes during the session. That s a bit of a worry for the race so we ll have to look into it overnight.”
“Still, I m confident for tomorrow because our race pace has been good this weekend and we ve been looking after the tyres well.
Toyota have historically had one of the biggest budgets in the sport and they were tipped to quit Formula One at the beginnig of the season in the wake of the global economic downturn. But the Japanese manufacturer is now beginning to see some return on its investment.
Brawn GP driver Jenson Button momentarily held the top spot in the closing stages before being demoted to fourth place by the Toyota drivers and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel. Rubens Barrichello was unable to match the pace of his teammate and will start the race from sixth on the grid.
“We were aiming for pole position today but unfortunately it wasn t our best qualifying session of the season and the pace just wasn t there,” rued Button. “I didn t have a great lap on my final run in Q3 and we were struggling for grip on the corner exits and locking tyres throughout the session.”
“We were surprised by our lack of pace and the quicker pace of our competitors today who have obviously made advances and caught up quickly.”
A rejuvenated Lewis Hamilton was fifth fastest for McLaren as the team continue to make progress with their car.
“We have been pushing incredibly hard over the last couple of months and this is a result of all our hard work,” said the defending world champion. “We ve got a similar pace to some of the guys in the top five; as long as everything goes smoothly we should be able to get a top five finish tomorrow. I can almost see pole position now – and I m really looking forward to getting there soon!â€
Ferrari managed to get both their drivers into the top ten for the first time this season avoiding the tactical errors seen in the opening races. Felipe Massa, who has dominated the race for the last two years, will start the race from eighth place, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg.
“It seems we have made a small step forward, but we know we still have a long way to go,” reflected Massa. “Personally, I m happy to be back in the top ten in qualifying and I hope I can have a good race and make it into the top eight.”
“This morning, the car was handling very well, but in the afternoon it lost a little bit of performance because of oversteer, probably down to the track conditions.”
“Tomorrow it will be very hot and that will have a considerable effect on reliability and tyre performance. We must try and make it to the finish and bring home some points, maybe making the most of the KERS, especially at the start.â€
Heikki Kovalainen in the sister McLaren, who lost valuable track time in the morning due to a throttle problem, just missed the shoot-out and will start eleventh ahead of Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima.
BMW Sauber drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld continued to struggle with the handling of the F1.09 around the desert circuit. Both drivers progressed to Q2 but were unable to haul themselves into the top ten despite two attempts each.
Under pressure Renault driver Nelson Piquet blew his chances of a top ten position with a mistake at the final corner on his flying lap. The Brazilian, who could be replaced by GP2 star Sebastien Grosjean if he does not improve, will start in fifteenth place behind the two BMW Sauber drivers.
“I pushed a bit too much to try to get into Q3,” conceded Piquet. “I had four cars around me and I really couldn t do much so I had to take some risks and pushed hard, but it wasn t good enough to go through to Q3.”
“Hopefully we will have a strong start to the race and can adopt a good strategy so that I can challenge for the points, which is what we need right now.â€
Mark Webber was the biggest casualty of the opening knock-out session. The Red Bull driver found himself in the drop-zone, along with teammate Vettel and the Brawn GP drivers, under pressure to produce a flying lap.
But the Aussie was hampered on his final lap by Force India’s Adrian Sutil at the final few corners. He starts the race from the back row of the grid, ahead of Sebastian Bourdais. “My race is screwed,” he said.
“Traffic. I had traffic on the last corner and therefore wasn t quick enough to go through. I don t usually get caught out with that problem and that was the worst place to get nailed, as it wrecked both my flying laps.”
“I had nowhere to go in the last corner of my first lap and then Sutil slip-streamed past me for the start of my second, so it was a disaster.”
Sutil himself just missed the second knock-out session lining up in sixteenth ahead of Sebastian Buemi and teamamte Giancarlo Fisichella.
P. Driver Team Time 1 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:33.431 2 Timo Glock Toyota 0:00.491 3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 0:00.794 4 Jenson Button Brawn 0:00.823 5 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 0:00.975 6 Rubens Barrichello Brawn 0:01.018 7 Fernando Alonso Renault 0:01.357 8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 0:01.597 9 Nico Rosberg Williams 0:01.913 10 Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen Ferrari 0:02.159 11 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren 0:00.258 12 Kazuki Nakajima Williams 0:00.000 13 Robert Kubica BMW 0:00.274 14 Nick Heidfeld BMW 0:00.156 15 Nelson Piquet Renault 0:00.387 16 Adrian Sutil Force India 0:00.501 17 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 0:00.532 18 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India 0:00.689 19 Mark Webber Red Bull 0:00.817 20 Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso 0:00.938