Toyota will try to become the third team this season to take its debut victory with a 1-2 finish after Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock secured the front row in qualifying for tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
After Brawn GP managed the feat in Australia and Red Bull repeated it in China, the Japanese auto-giant will hope to finally see a return on its investment in F1 by bringing both cars home at the front to take its long-overdue first win.
And its drivers gave it the best possible chance by setting late times that swept aside all their opposition – despite some question marks over their brakes.
“It wasn’t an easy qualifying, things were quite difficult,” said Trulli. “I had some trouble with my car, the brake pedal was getting longer and longer.
“But I knew I had a good car and could fight for pole so it was nice to end up with first and second, for the team especially it is great to show what a great result this is.”
The pair were the only cars in the final session to break 1min 34sec, while behind them came a mix of the traditional powerhouse teams and the new front-runners of the 2009 season.
Sebastian Vettel, racewinner in China, qualified third, while the Brawn pair of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello took fourth and sixth. Nico Rosberg yet again failed to match his impressive practice performance, but still took his Williams to ninth.
Button said: “We’ve struggled compared to the whole field and we don’t have the pace we had in the first few races. It’s going to be a tough race tomorrow – it’s not a walk in the park.
“At the moment, we don’t have the pace of the Red Bulls and the Toyota. We’ll do the best job with what we have. If it’s hot like this tomorrow, our pace will be good.”
Joining them in the top 10 shoot-out were some familiar names – Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and the two Ferraris. Hamilton split the Brawns in fifth, while Alonso managed seventh. Felipe Massa in eighth and Kimi Raikkonen in 10th gave the reigning constructors’ champions their best on-track qualifying of the season so far.
Hamilton believes he can gain places during the race: “The car feels a lot better this weekend, even though we didn’t make too many updates. But I enjoyed driving the car and I am looking forward to more updates coming in the future.
“It will be interesting just to see what the other guys are doing in front, but I think for the strategy they have told me, we should be able to fight for a couple of positions in front.”
The biggest casualty in qualifying was China runner-up Mark Webber, who was blocked in the first session by Force India’s Adrian Sutil and failed to advance to the second stage. “Absolute disaster – there’s no point protesting, my race is screwed,” said the Australian.
The pair were eliminated alongside Giancarlo Fisichella and the Toro Ross duo of Sebastien Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais. The second session marked the end of the BMWs’ participation and also weeded out the weaker of the driver pairings at McLaren, Williams and Renault. McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen came closest to advancing, and will start 11th. “I had no more to give so that was the end of story today,” he said.
Provisional qualifying positions
- Jarno Trulli
- Timo Glock
- Sebastian Vettel
- Jenson Button
- Lewis Hamilton
- Rubens Barrichello
- Fernando Alonso
- Felipe Massa
- Nico Rosberg
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Heikki Kovalainen
- Kazuki Nakajima
- Robert Kubica
- Nick Heidfeld
- Nelson Piquet Jnr
- Adrian Sutil
- Sebastien Buemi
- Giancarlo Fisichella
- Mark Webber
- Sebastien Bourdais