Panasonic Toyota Racing is celebrating its best qualifying performance of the season after Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli secured the second row of the grid for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix. Following a difficult qualifying session last week in China, today was a much better day for Toyota. Both Ralf and Jarno showed quick pace in all three of the sessions and they easily made it into Q3 before setting the 3rd and 4th fastest times respectively. After yesterday's wet practice sessions, the weather improved around the Suzuka circuit today. The sun came out for the morning practice session and Q1 and Q2 took place in similar sunshine on a dry track. The conditions were still not ideal because there were strong gusting winds and there was a shower at one end of the circuit during Q3. The eventual grid positions now give Toyota the best possible chance for a strong result in tomorrow's race. Now the whole team will push as hard as possible to make sure that there is something f or its employees and fans to remember.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 7, Chassis TF106/10B) PROVISIONAL GRID: 3rd Free Practice Session 3: 2nd, 15 laps Lap Time: 1m31.863s (+1.210s)
Q1: 4th, 6 laps
Lap Time: 1m30.595s (+0.483s)
Q2: 5th, 3 laps
Lap Time: 1m30.299s (+1.345s)
Q3: 3rd, 10 laps
Lap Time: 1m29.989s (+0.390s)
"That was a great achievement for the whole team. After the last two races we needed that to show where we really are in terms of pace. We knew from the previous races that we were always there from a lap time point of view and we needed to show that. Today, with the clear help of our Bridgestone tyres, we were able to show that our car is a good car. We've obviously struggled for results in the second half of this season, but our car has improved a lot. I've always said that if we had a good weekend and the tyre is right then we could be heading for the podium. This is my favourite track and while we will obviously have a hard race with the two Ferraris ahead of us, we will do our best to catch them. It is important to qualify up the grid at Suzuka and now that we have achieved that we will push as hard as we can."
Jarno Trulli (Car 8, Chassis TF106/08B)
PROVISIONAL GRID: 4th
Free Practice Session 3: 20th, 15 laps
Lap Time: 1m34.118s (+3.465s)
Q1: 2nd, 6 laps
Lap Time: 1m30.420s (+0.308s)
Q2: 3rd, 3 laps
Lap Time: 1m30.204s (+1.250s)
Q3: 4th, 10 laps
Lap Time: 1m30.039s (+0.440s)
"It's great to be so far up the grid. We've been competitive all weekend, especially today, and we were confident that we could have a result like this. It was very windy out there but the car balance still felt good throughout the afternoon and we were very competitive. I was very quick throughout qualifying and I could have made it into the top three, but I missed out by a few hundredths. Still we have a very strong car for the race tomorrow so I'm happy both for myself and for the team. Obviously we are keen to record a strong result at our home race so we will fight from the start to finish. We appreciate the extra support that we receive at this race from our local fans and employees so we will hope to reward them with something to cheer."
Pascal Vasselon – Senior General Manager Chassis "This is our best qualifying result of the season and a very different story compared to China. But we knew what went wrong in Shanghai so we were always confident that we were able to put in a performance like this. We saw early in the weekend that our car was well balanced and fast around one lap in all types of conditions. So this is confirmation of the potential of our car because you need a good car to be fast around Suzuka. You also need good drivers as both Ralf and Jarno are. They did well so it has been a fine day for us. We were very strong in Q1 and Q2 and we preserved a set of tyres so we could have two outings on new tyres in Q3, which is definitely the best tactic. The wind was not a problem for the drivers, which is another good indication of the car's quality. We must also give a big thank you to Bridgestone because the tyres are working very well, both in terms of the first lap and consistency. As for the race, we are on the optimal strategy according to our calculations, so we are in good shape and looking forward to tomorrow."