Panasonic Toyota Racing heads into tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix with everything to do after struggling in a wet qualifying session today. The weather had already interrupted much of the three practice sessions and a downpour that began shortly before qualifying ensured the Shanghai International Circuit was wet throughout. Q1 bore the brunt of the rain and those conditions proved to be a struggle for Toyota, with both cars lacking grip. Indeed for the first time this year neither Ralf Schumacher nor Jarno Trulli made it through to Q2 so it was a short afternoon's work. Due to Massa's engine penalty they are now scheduled to start from 16th and 17th positions respectively tomorrow. Despite the lowly grid positions Toyota is confident of gaining ground during what will be a difficult afternoon.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 7, Chassis TF106/10B) PROVISIONAL GRID: 16th Free Practice Session 3: 19th, 14 laps Lap Time: 1m46.023s (+5.830s)
Q1: 17th, 9 laps
Lap Time: 1m48.894s (+4.766s)
"That was a difficult afternoon for all of us as it was a real struggle for grip out there. Still, both Jarno and I were a bit unlucky with the red flag coming out at the wrong time, just when we were nearing the end of our fastest laps. The track got worse over the course of Q1 and by the end it was too wet to improve our times. There was obviously a lot of traffic too so there was a lot of spray, but that's just the way it is. If you're in the middle of the pack or at the back of a long line of traffic then it is very hard to see anything. But the fact is that in these conditions the other tyre competitor looked strong so we will have a lot of work tonight to prepare for tomorrow. The car was working well as we showed in the morning. It will be a long race tomorrow so hopefully the weather will suit us better and we can move up."
Jarno Trulli (Car 8, Chassis TF106/08B)
PROVISIONAL GRID: 17th
Free Practice Session 3: 17th, 12 laps
Lap Time: 1m44.027s (+3.834s)
Q1: 18th, 9 laps
Lap Time: 1m49.048s (+4.920s)
"Of course we were not as competitive today as we expected. Still, I could have made it through to Q2 but for the red flag which came out while I was on my quickest lap. Nevertheless, it was clear that we were lacking grip. We went out on the standard wet tyres for our early runs, before switching to full wets for the final runs as the track got wetter. We were right at the limit so it was a difficult choice to make. By the time we went out after the red flag the track was very wet and there was no way to improve our time. Obviously we still have some work to do on our performance in these conditions. Tomorrow could still be a wet race so it certainly won't be easy for us but we'll try our best."
Pascal Vasselon – Senior General Manager Chassis "Qualifying was a short story for us today due to a combination of two factors. The red flag came while both our cars were in the final sector of their quickest laps and we were in a position to considerably improve our lap times. At the same time, we obviously were lacking tyre grip today, which meant that we had absolutely no margin. Both drivers went out on standard wet tyres at the start, which was the right choice at the time before the track became much wetter later in the session. When the two drivers went out for their last runs after the red flag the line was much wetter. There was time for only one timed lap and it was impossible to improve because there was simply too much traffic. The weather remains uncertain for tomorrow, as it has been all weekend, with a high risk of rain. Obviously we would not look forward to a full wet race. But in this morning's practice session the track evolved from very wet at the start to dry by the end. We went out on race fuel at dif ferent times throughout the hour to understand tyre behaviour in all those different circumstances. That worked well so we should have a good idea of when to switch from between the tyres on a drying track. We have a hard race ahead but we will push hard to move up through the field."