Toyota and Renault spiced up the championship battle in qualifying with Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso splitting off Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen from the front-runners.
On paper it looks as though Trulli and Alonso are running aggressive strategies and carrying slightly lighter fuel loads than their immediate rivals. They both lapped quickly in the dying minutes of the morning warm up which adds weight to the theory given that they had spent most of the session languishing in the mid-field – the last ten minutes of Saturday Practice is when the drivers tend to run qualifying simulations on their designated fuel loads.
Although there is perhaps an element of show-boating involved in the case of Trulli given that Hockenheim is effectively a home race for Toyota with the team’s Cologne HQ based only a few miles down the road. With a driver of Fernando’s calibre you can never quite tell, and the comments of Renault’s Pat Symounds suggest that the Spaniard is not as light as he appears.
“Fernando ran some excellent laps in Q2 and Q3 and we are confident that our third row starting position has been achieved with a competitive fuel load,” explained the Englishman. “The weather predictions seem to be better for tomorrow and so we are looking forward to a good race.”
It would not be a shock to see Trulli stay out longer than predicted either. Toyota have made huge strides in performance with the points that the team collected in Canada and Magny-Cours amounting to their entire 2007 tally. They should have been strong in Silverstone as well as the circuit is technically similar to Magny-Cours, but for whatever reason both drivers struggled to get on top of their setup.
Judging by the post-qualifying comments from Trulli, Toyota are back to the fore again in Hockenheim.
“It was a very good performance so I am really happy,” enthused the Italian veteran. “The car handled very well and we made many small changes through the session to get closer and closer to the perfect balance.”
“At the very end of Q3 I put in a very strong lap to give me fourth position, which was very satisfying. I am particularly happy for the team because they are working hard at the track and at the factory so it is a pleasure for me to show such a good performance.”
“We have a good chance tomorrow now, even if it will be difficult to battle with Ferrari and McLaren. We will do our best and we know we are competitive so I am confident we can have a good result again. Clearly the goal is to score plenty of points and fight for the best possible finish.”
Whatever their fuel loads, both Trulli and Alonso are well poised to interfere in the strategies of Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen which could play beautifully into the hands of Lewis Hamilton.