Toyota win the battle but not the war

Trulli JapanToyota eye Renault in Japan as Alonso shines again

Toyota may have shown their colleagues at Honda and Williams the way on home turf, but their real rivals, Renault, have things firmly under control at the sharp end of the field, courtesy of an ever-ominous looking Fernando Alonso.

The Japanse outfit have been locked in a fierce battle with the struggling French outfit all through the season, and prior to Singapore there was little to separate the two teams by way of points.

Fernando Alonso’s stunning charge to victory under the night lights, allied with a disappointing showing from the Cologne-based outfit, soon changed that and tipped the balance in Renault’s favour: Toyota currently find themselves five points adrift of the Enstone squad.

With both Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock safely into the top ten, and out-numbering the sole R28 of Alonso, Toyota are well placed to take the fight to their immediate rivals. Add to that a sense of under-performance from Trulli in qualifying – he wound up seventh ahead of Glock – and you have a far closer battle unfolding behind the main show than initially appears.

“In Q2 I was 4th and Timo was 5th so it shows that the Toyotas are going well,” explained Trulli. “Q3 was a bit of a mystery because as soon as we put the fuel on the car was rather unbalanced and we lost a lot of grip

So I wasn’t so happy about the pace of Q3 but maybe its down to the different fuel levels. Now we must go for a strong result for everyone here in front of our own fans and we must fight really hard until the end tomorrow.”

Toyota chief Pascal Vasselon concurred: “In both Q1 and Q2 both drivers were very quick, with Timo the fastest of all in Q1 and Jarno less than three tenths off in Q2.”

“Given that, we are slightly disappointed by the positions we had in Q3, but as usual it’s really a matter of where people will stop tomorrow. Considering the situation with tyres we feel that we have the ideal strategy for tomorrow.

Renault have spent much of the season complaining about the advances that their rivals have made in engine development, and given the disadvantage that the French outfit seemed to have at places like Valencia, Monza and Spa, credit must go to Fernando Alonso who has consistently dragged the team into within touching distance of the front-runners.

And in qualifying on Saturday, the double world champion even had the pace to leapfrog Felipe Massa’s Ferrari.

“We can be happy with fourth place, which is a good result and the work we did yesterday certainly paid us back today,” Alonso said afterwards.

“We had a bit of trouble in Q2, but in Q3 with fuel on board the car felt good, which is encouraging for the race tomorrow and I think we can realistically aim for a top five finish.”

Pat Symonds added: “Fernando’s position on the grid is as high as we could have hoped for and so we are satisfied with our afternoon and hopeful of a strong race tomorrow.”