Panasonic Toyota Racing goes into Sunday's Australian Grand Prix with two cars in the top ten of the grid after today's qualifying session. On a day of changeable weather at Melbourne, the morning practice session took place on a damp track. The rain then held off until a downpour at the end of Session 2, by which time Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher had both qualified for the final session. Unfortunately Jarno suffered an electronics glitch and a damaged rear wing when he ran over some debris so he took no further part in the action and he will line up on the fifth row. Ralf had a better final session, putting in a good lap to qualify in 6th position. The team will now fight for points in the race.
PICK UP THE P6
Ralf Schumacher achieved Toyota's highest qualifying result of 2006 as he made the third row for Sunday's Grand Prix.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 7, Chassis TF106/05)
Free Practice Session 3: 5th, 10 laps
Lap Time: 1m36.445s (+1.110s)
Qualifying Session 1: 7th, 7 laps
Lap Time: 1m28.007s (+0.928s)
Qualifying Session 2: 9th, 7 laps
Lap Time: 1m26.596s (+0.867s)
Qualifying Session 3: 6th, 14 laps
Lap Time: 1m26.612s (+1.383s)
"I'm delighted to have qualified so high and it's a good achievement for Toyota to be looking so good after the problems we have had. Yesterday was hard but already this morning our pace looked better so we're pretty pleased with what we have achieved today. It was a difficult afternoon, especially when the rain came down at the end of Session 2, but the circuit improved quite well in the last session due to the wind. The tyres felt good and the car was better than I expected on heavy fuel at the end. We've been struggling for grip but the last session was the best I have felt all season. Tomorrow depends on strategy but my target is to score points and we look pretty good for that."
Jarno Trulli qualified for Session 3 but took no further part due to an electronics problem and a damaged rear wing.
Jarno Trulli (Car 8, Chassis TF106/04)
Free Practice Session 3: 9th, 10 laps
Lap Time: 1m37.492s (+2.157s)
Qualifying Session 1: 4th, 7 laps
Lap Time: 1m27.748s (+0.669s)
Qualifying Session 2: 7th, 7 laps
Lap Time: 1m26.327s (+0.598s)
Qualifying Session 3; 10th
No lap time
"It's great that we are starting to improve but this has been a very unlucky weekend so far for me. I'm struggling with the flu and I am completely blocked up. When I started qualifying the balance and tyres felt okay and even though I had a lot of traffic in both sessions I still managed to do good laps. Then at the last run when I was going even quicker I had an electronic problem and damaged my wing when I ran over some debris. Nonetheless, of course I am delighted about the pace we have shown here. It's good for the team and good for everyone that we have shown we can fight near the front – just a little bit unlucky for me. I've always performed well in Melbourne but I have also endured very bad luck. I hope that can change tomorrow and that we can score some points."
The first day of April brought colder conditions than usual for this race but it brought a good afternoon for Toyota.
Mike Gascoyne – Technical Director Chassis "We're reasonably happy with qualifying. Ralf put in a fine effort to qualify on the third row but we're disappointed for Jarno. We had an electronic problem that damaged fifth gear on the in lap of his last run of Session 2 and on his fastest lap he also had his rear wing damaged by debris. I'm sure he could have done well in Session 3 but because we wouldn't have had time to fix it, we didn't go out to give us more options for tomorrow from a strategy point of view. The red flags made this session quite exciting but it's the same for everyone and it fell reasonably well for us in terms of where we were at the time. The car has been pretty good all weekend so overall many thanks to Bridgestone for their support in bringing along a tyre that works so well in these conditions. We now have to look for a solid points finish with both cars in the race."
*Grid positions subject to official confirmation on Sunday morning