Q&A with Toyota's Jarno Trulli
An issue with the gearbox oil pump on Jarno Trulli's TF108 eliminated any chance for the Italian to take part in the final practice ahead of qualifying for the European Grand Prix last Saturday. Undeterred, the Italian went into qualifying and put the Toyota seventh on the grid and on race day got the jump on Sebastian Vettel to finish in fifth position. All in all a good weekend for Trulli...
Did you have an enjoyable summer break?
"It was good and it was nice to be able to spend some time with the family. The F1 calendar might not be as packed as NASCAR but it is still pretty busy because our season is more compact and you have the testing program to concentrate on between races. With the August testing ban we took the opportunity to go across to the US. I didn't go to any races but we did actually spend a day with Juan Pablo Montoya and his family in Miami. It was nice to spend some time together away from the race track. Instead of being in the paddock it was great to be on the beach with our wives!"
What were your impressions of Valencia?
"I think they did a good job and it is a great new venue for Formula 1. It is always nice when you have a race in the middle of a city. The atmosphere was nice and this year's race was extra special because it was the first one."
What about the circuit itself?
"It was not what you would call a typical street circuit with slow average speeds.
The race-winning average was 193km/h and there was more run-off than normal at a street track. I was expecting that there would be some incidents in the race but in fact we got through without any Safety Car appearances, which was unexpected."
Were you happy with fifth place in the race?
"Yes, it was a strong performance by the whole team. The weekend didn't start well for me on the Friday because I wasn't happy with the car balance. You always have to be extra careful on a street circuit, especially a new one, because there is a lot of dust and a lack of grip on the first day. I learn circuits quickly so that was no problem, but the track does come to you even more when the tire rubber goes down. You notice that a lot in Monaco and I was expecting the same. I changed quite a bit for Saturday morning, but didn't have the opportunity to evaluate the car in final practice."
What was the problem?
"There was an issue with the gearbox oil pump. We replaced it twice and then it broke down again so we changed some of the ancillaries as well. It basically meant that I missed out on Saturday morning free practice and went into qualifying blind."
So how surprised were you to be fastest of all in Q1 and less than 0.1s from fastest Q2 time?
"It was a nice surprise because I didn't know what to expect. If I'm honest, I found the car much easier on lighter fuel than with a heavier load, especially after missing third practice. Because I'd changed the set-up completely and not tried it at all on Saturday morning, in qualifying I was just driving with what I had. I managed to get it right in Q1 and repeated the lap in Q2. I did a decent lap at the start of Q3 and then on my final run I was three tenths up in the first sector but made a mistake and aborted the lap. The potential was maybe fifth but in the circumstances I couldn't be too unhappy."
Did the race go to plan?
"I made quite a good start so I was fighting for points straight away. I was behind Sebastian Vettel and although I felt I could go a bit quicker, there was no way to pass. I didn't lose too much ground though and I went two laps longer than him in the first stint so got past in the pit stops. I was able to maintain a strong pace without pushing too hard and was taking care of the tires and the brakes, so everything was good. Then I managed to get ahead of Kimi Raikkonen at his second pit stop because he was delayed. That was unexpected and I thought we would have a big fight for the position until I saw him retiring. Fifth position was a good result considering where we started and it was particularly good to get both cars in the points."
Toyota is now more firmly established in fourth place in the Constructors' Championship. Are you optimistic about the rest of the season?
"I am definitely optimistic because the team is pushing very hard. Our recent results show how much stronger we are getting and it is nice to race with a competitive car every weekend. Toyota is doing a very good job this year and looking stronger and more competitive at every circuit. We are still pushing ahead with the development work so I'm confident that we can maintain the form in the coming races and keep the points coming. I will do two test days at Monza which, in terms of set-up is a bit of a one-off race with very low downforce. After that we go to Spa, which is my favorite circuit. It's always a good feeling to be heading there!"