Sebastian Vettel will be wondering if he’s chosen the right Bull for 2009 after dazzling the Valencia crowds on his way to a stunning sixth place for Toro Rosso ahead of Sunday’s European Grand Prix.
The German youngster, something of a different man now that he’s secured the second Red Bull Racing seat for 2009, underlined his status as one of the hottest talents in Formula One after giving the sport’s powerhouses a serious run for their money around the brand new Juan Carlos I Marina.
The Toro Rosso ace had been threatening to pull something out of the bag all weekend after emerging as the surprise pace setter in Friday warm up. It’s not the first time that the sister Red Bull team has been seen to mix it with the front-runners during the opening running, and it was quickly dismissed as nothing more than light-fuel running as others struggled to adapt to the green track. Even Vettel himself downplayed the significance of the performance.
But as Saturday’s action unfolded against the backdrop of changeable track conditions and the odd spot of rain, Vettel consistently kept the McLaren and Ferrari drivers in touch throughout each of the knock-out sessions, even finding time to pip Lewis Hamilton on his first flyer in Q3.
A costly mistake on his final flying lap dropped him to sixth overall, but on a day when Red Bull Racing floundered, Vettel struggled to contain his excitement.
“My best result ever so I am pleased, as it has taken a bit of time to improve on my P7 that I did in my first grand prix. It’s been a fantastic day for us. We made some changes to the set-up overnight and they all turned out to be positive.”
“The team worked hard to make the most of the data. We didn’t expect to do this well here but it’s a good thing to have both cars in Q3. My last lap should have been a bit better, but I made a mistake in turn 12, locking the rear under braking.”
“Now we have to keep our feet on the ground, because there are a lot of laps ahead of us tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the race when I think we have a real chance to score points.”
The performance left Toro Rosso chief Giorgio Ascanelli completely bemused: “We must be doing something right but I’m not sure what it is! Seriously though, this is our best qualifying performance with Sebastien making his first appearance in Q3 as we got both our drivers into the final part.”
“The fact this is a new track meant we didn’t have to pay our usual tax in terms of our drivers’ lack of experience, as it was the same for everybody. We brought a few new things here and everything worked, so we can be happy.”
Team-mate Sebastien Bourdais sealed a good all-round performance for the Faenza-based outfit after making his first excursion into the elite top ten shoot out.
“This wasn’t bad,” reflected the Frenchman. “I am still having my problem of not finding grip on the “option” tyre, so we need to work on that. But I am happy that our performance is getting better.”
“I’m really pleased to be in Q3 for the first time. It’s a good feeling as I kept waiting to hear that I dropped down to 11 or 12! What we have seen here is that, on a new track, some teams have worked in the right direction and some have not.”
“The team did a good job of giving me a car that was one of the best today. Now it is up to me to get the most out of it in the race. It’s bound to be a tough race but I hope to be in a position to fight for points after making a good start.”