It was a day of mixed fortunes during the Korean Grand Prix qualifying session for the three rookie outfits – Lotus, Virgin Racing and Hispania Racing – and although the six drivers were not unexpectedly eliminated in Q1, there are plenty of interesting stories at the far end of the pit lane…
Lotus’ Jarno Trulli led the way for the three rookie outfits by qualifying quickest for Sunday’s Korean Grand Prix, and his efforts were all the more impressive when one considers the time lost in practice with a gearbox issue.
“I’m happy with how it has gone today and I think my final lap was pretty good,” Trulli – who out-paced his former Toyota team-mate Timo Glock by two-tenths of a second – said after qualifying.
“I want to say thank you to my mechanics again because they have been working really hard all weekend – it has been a bit of a tough couple of days so far because the bad luck I had yesterday limited my track time. It’s thanks to the guys in the garage that I’ve managed to get in enough running time to set me up for that quick lap today.”
Despite qualifying 19th-quickest, Trulli moves up a place by dint of Vitaly Petrov’s five-place grid penalty stemming from his start-line crash in Japan a fortnight ago
Trulli’s team-mate Heikki Kovalainen therefore starts three places behind Trulli in 21st.
Emotions were similarly mixed at Virgin Racing, with Timo Glock impressively splitting the two Lotus cars in qualifying, giving an indication that the team will be a more competitive prospect this weekend than perhaps had been demonstrated at previous rounds.
By contrast, Lucas di Grassi endured a more difficult time, no doubt partly stemming from the relative loss of track time due to the team’s decision to run Belgian pay-driver Jérôme d’Ambrosio in the opening practice session.
A rather blunt di Grassi was disappointed to only manage 22nd on the grid, and said afterwards: “It was not a very good qualifying for me today.
“I did not manage to use my second set of qualifying Option (softer compound) tyres properly as, on my two timed laps I got traffic and then I made a mistake, so for sure there is more to come.”
And down at Hispania Racing, Sakon Yamamoto boosted his credentials – and consequently damaged team-mate Bruno Senna’s – by out-qualifying his Brazilian team-mate for the first time this season.
Yamamoto only just managed out on qualifying off the back row, with his time 1:42.444 just fractionally slower than 22nd-quickest Lucas di Grassi, who posted a 1:42.325.
Describing himself as “very happy” with the qualifying result, Yamamoto said after qualifying: “We were able to improve the car and I did my best lap in qualifying … and I want to thank the team for preparing the car very well.”
Meanwhile, Senna – who was largely expected to summarily thump Yamamoto – will be left scratching his head while others ponder his future in the sport on the back of being out-qualified for the second time in three races by his team-mate (with Christian Klien comprehensively outpacing him at Singapore in a one-off outing).