Why the Italian is a very happy with life at Toyota...
Five rounds into the 2005 Formula One season and Toyotas Jarno Trulli lies second in the drivers championship, higher than even he could have hoped for. After yet another top-three finish in Barcelona he spoke to the team about a highly-satisfying Spanish weekend
Q: How does it feel to score three podiums in five races?
Jarno Trulli: To have scored our third podium in just five races is a fantastic effort from everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing and it is better than I expected. Barcelona was a great result for me and, I have to say, one of the best races of my career because the car was not perfect. I had to work very hard to keep ahead of Ralf. I had a different strategy and I was quicker with heavy fuel while Ralf was quicker on light fuel. That was down to the car set-up.
Q: So you were pretty much flat-out from beginning to end in Barcelona?
JT: It was a tough race and I had to push really, really hard even on the 'in' and 'out' laps around the pit stops. At my first pit stop there was a problem with my refuelling when a small amount of fuel caught fire but in the end everything worked fine and it felt great to be on the podium again with Ralf also racing strongly.
Q: How is your relationship with your team-mate Ralf Schumacher?
JT: At the moment we are having a good championship and have a very good relationship. Things have worked out slightly better for me but if you look into it deeply, it's not so obvious. Everything has gone well for me but Ralf has had some misfortune, especially at Imola. But he has still got 14 points, which is pretty good. Ralf is doing a very good job. It is a long season and too early to say which one of us will come out on top. But anyway, it's not really about what Ralf and Jarno can do; it's about what Toyota can do.
Q: And what do you think Toyota can do over the season?
JT: We have made a great start but it's difficult to make too many predictions. Everyone is still settling in and the teams are getting to grips with the rule changes. The only really consistent performance we have seen is from Fernando Alonso and Renault. All the others are still improving and so only at mid season will I be able to say if I'm thinking about the championship. At the moment I'm only thinking about as many points as possible at each race.
Q: How satisfying was it to give the team provisional pole in Spain?
JT: I was delighted about the result on Saturday, obviously, but not about the way it came. To be honest it was a bit unexpected. On Saturday morning I struggled a bit with grip. I couldn't put it down to balance, set-up, or anything specific, it's just that the car didn't feel quite there. By contrast I was very confident after Friday when my longer runs had been strong. We hadn't actually made any changes except for putting on another set of tyres. And so the provisional pole was a surprise because I wasn't fully confident and I wasn't right on the limit like I normally am.
Q: Was it a mistake-free lap?
JT: It was a mistake-free lap and I think that was the secret to the result. Aerodynamics are very important at Barcelona and a slight change in the wind direction can catch you out. It makes it quite difficult for the driver and that's why we saw so many mistakes. Both Fernando and Kimi (Raikkonen) made mistakes and it was managing to do a lap without a problem anywhere that won me the provisional pole.
Q: How disappointing was it to drop to fifth on Sunday morning?
JT: It was pretty much what I expected and I'm not being negative about my overall grid position. When you look at it logically, I predicted that Kimi and Fernando would be quick on race day. Then Mark Webber qualified the Williams on the front row but he had a light, three-stop fuel load and only converted to two stops later in the race. After him, the only other person to qualify ahead of me was Ralf, who was very close in first qualifying and then had slightly less fuel than me in the second session. I wasn't really going for pole position, I was concentrating on the race and a good strategy.
Q: Did you have new parts on the car in Spain?
JT: We had some new aerodynamic parts in Barcelona that had given some significant gains in the wind tunnel. The team did a great job to manufacture them and then get them to Spain on Thursday, where we had arranged to have the cars scrutineered as late as possible.
Q: How confident were you about racing new, untested parts?
JT: I think the team has done an incredibly good job over the last year and it is now paying off. Last year the wind tunnel was not working as well as it could but the team has developed it and made sure that all the numbers we see in the tunnel now translate when we put the car on the track. Now, we are pretty confident that when we see an improvement in the tunnel we can just put the parts on the car and they will work. And that's what happened at Barcelona.
Q: How much extra performance did you get?
JT: I'd say the overall performance gain was something in the region of a quarter of a second to three tenths.
Q: Monte Carlo is the next race on the calendar. After your debut victory last season, it is realistic to think you can win there again?
JT: It would be fantastic to think I could win in Monaco again, but it would be wrong to expect it just because I scored my first win there last year! It is a great event and a fantastic atmosphere. The driver can arguably have a bigger input at Monaco relative to the whole package, but the car still has to be exactly right. There are a lot of things that can jump out and bite you in Monaco too. Our good finishes in Barcelona mean that we will both run towards the end of the first qualifying session and that's important in Monte Carlo because the track gets significantly quicker the more tyre rubber that goes down. And qualifying in Monaco is critical for the race because of the notorious difficulty in overtaking. I'll be giving it 110%, you can be sure!