Smiles all round in the Scuderia Toro Rosso garage this evening. You have read it everywhere in the months leading up to the start of the 2012 World Championship, no one was ready to make a prediction as to the hierarchy among the teams based on the results of winter testing. Clearly, the initial judgement would only come at the end of the first Qualifying session of the season. In fact, this evening’s hour of low fuel running did not paint a very clear picture, but it did throw up some surprises.
It’s fair to say that, in the Toro Rosso garage, we would probably have signed for tenth and eleventh places before the car went out on track. It was an exceptional performance given that this is Daniel’s first race with us and Jean-Eric’s very first Grand Prix weekend. It’s a good sign for the future, almost as good as the fact that both cars have done a lot of laps so far around Albert Park and have done so reliably.
But we should not get over excited. For starters, the points will only be handed out after what could be a very difficult race on a track that’s notorious for delivering unexpected results and often features an appearance or two from the Safety Car. Also, in terms of our qualifying performance, there were some drivers and teams that underperformed today for various reasons. So we will have to see what we can on Sunday evening. Whatever the outcome in our camp, it looks as though racing enthusiasts can look forward to a 58-lap treat in Melbourne.
Leading the cars off the grid will be the two McLarens as they made the front row their own in qualifying. Lewis Hamilton starts from pole, with Jenson Button alongside him. The Lotus team had shown well in winter testing, but it’s fair to say the biggest surprise of the day was the name Romain Grosjean in third place on the time sheet, especially as his more famous team-mate, former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, failed to make it further than Q1 in 18th place. Michael Schumacher starts alongside the Frenchman, while one has to travel to row 3 to find the reigning world champion team, with local boy Mark Webber out-pacing the man with the Number 1 on his car, Sebastian Vettel.