Biggest surprise of qualifying? It had to be Pierre Gasly’s sixth place for Toro Rosso – a sixth place that will become fifth on the grid after Lewis Hamilton’s penalty. How did it happen? Even Gasly is not quite sure…
Toro Rosso brought a revised aero package to Bahrain, while engine partners Honda supplied upgraded power unit components after the problems they had in Australia. As a result, Gasly had been looking good all weekend.
“We didn’t expect it, to be fair,” said the Frenchman after qualifying ‘best of the rest’ behind the big three teams in Sakhir.
“The car was fantastic since the beginning of the weekend. We saw that we had some good potential but to be P6 in qualifying is just amazing, so I’m really happy.”
Even with the improvements added to the STR13 in Bahrain and the pace he had shown in practice, Gasly admitted he was slightly mystified by the speed he had found under the evening floodlights.
“I think we need to go through the data to understand why we were so fast today, because we had small upgrades on the car, but it seems to work much better than what we expected.”
As a result, Gasly believes he and team mate Brendon Hartley – 11th on the grid after hitting a bird in Q1 and narrowly missing the Q3 cut – have a very strong chance of securing the first points of their respective, fledgling F1 careers on Sunday.
“I think in terms of pace in the long runs we are pretty okay in terms of degradation. We know that usually it’s a bit tougher for us in the race with engine management and everything, but the car seems to work fantastically this weekend so we have a great opportunity to score our first points and I really hope that we are going to be able to make it happen tomorrow”
Gasly was also full of praise for Honda, who are in only their second race with Toro Rosso following the Japanese company’s split at the end of last season with McLaren – who notably could only qualify 13th and 14th.
“Toro Rosso is doing an amazing job with Honda," he added. "No one expected us to be competitive at the beginning of the year and they seem to work pretty well between Italians and Japanese – and that’s good to see.”