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Toyota desperately disappointed in China 01 Oct 2006

Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF106 ahead of Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota TF106.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 1 October 2006

The Toyota team left Shanghai empty handed after their disappointing qualifying form continued into Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix. Neither Ralf Schumacher nor Jarno Trulli finished the race, despite some promising pace in the middle stages.

Both men struggled in Saturday’s qualifying session, their Bridgestone tyres seemingly less suited to the damp conditions than their rivals’ Michelins. Ralf ended up 16th on the grid, immediately ahead of Trulli, leaving the pair with everything to do come Sunday afternoon.

They made slow progress in the early part of the race as both were caught in traffic for most of the first stint. Because of the lowly positions the team took a gamble of switching to dry tyres and filling up with fuel until the end of the race.

“We had to be aggressive to try and salvage something from the day,” said team principal Tsutomu Tomita. “The first part of the race the pace of the car was okay, but we were blocked behind Coulthard who was apparently on a different strategy. From then on we had to take a risk to try and catch up otherwise we would have ended up far from the points.

“We were fuelled quite long for the first stint just to be able to wait for the track to dry out. When we were about to pit the conditions were still not perfect for dry tyres, but still we went for it because it was the only possibility to come away with a good result.”

The switch came while the track was still wet and both drivers struggled for the next few laps, losing a lot of ground. But as the track dried out, Ralf twice set the fastest lap of the race up to that point. Unfortunately he did not make it to the finish, succumbing to an oil pressure problem on lap 49. That was after Trulli had retired with a loss of pneumatic pressure on lap 38.

“It was a risk that did not pay off but we had to try it and I still think it was a good decision,” added Tomita.

The double DNF means Toyota remain sixth in the constructors’ championship, five points behind fifth-placed rivals BMW Sauber, who scored two points in Shanghai courtesy of Nick Heidfeld’s seventh place.