Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo struggled to understand their strong performances
Toro Rosso pair qualify well in Canada but say car lacked feel
By Mike Wise in Montreal. Last Updated: 09/06/13 7:48pm
Jean-Eric Vergne: Qualified a best-ever seventh in Canada
Toro Rosso enjoyed a rare day in the sun - metaphorically at least - during qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix on Saturday, but Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo were not exactly thrilled with their performances.
Of the two it was Vergne who had more reason to smile, having just put in the best qualifying performance of his F1 career to line up seventh on the grid. Ricciardo set the tenth fastest time, although he will drop a place after being penalised for a pitlane infringement.
Yet Sky Sports Online found more bemusement than joy when it spoke to both drivers after the session. It took place in decidedly tricky conditions, which changed by the minute as misty rain blew in and out of Ile Notre Dame.
It tripped up Felipe Massa, who crashed his Ferrari in the gloom to bring out red flags. In contrast, Toro Rosso's youngsters managed to keep it on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve's straight and narrow but both said that their STR8s lacked feel.
"It was pretty difficult - I was almost out in Q1. I didn't have any grip in my tyres and we had to change a couple of things," Vergne said.
"In the end it was better but I never felt great in these conditions. Normally I feel like a fish in the water but today was really difficult. I don't know the reason but sixth or seventh was really the best we could have done with the car.
"It wasn't easy out there. As we saw, there were some crashes. You had to deliver on one lap after the red flag, so it's really difficult conditions."
The 23-year-old Frenchman, who finished eighth in Monaco two weeks ago, added: "It's a really good result because it's my best one. But on the other hand, of all the times I drove in wet conditions, that was one of the worst. Just in terms of feeling, of the grip of the car. It's not fantastic, I would say."
Speaking after qualifying an excellent third, Williams' Valtteri Bottas said the changing conditions meant that timing was the key to a good lap.
Ricciardo did not disagree but added that drivers also needed to get the intermediate tyre used during the session to work properly - and suggested that this might have been the source of his and Vergne's discomfort.
"I'd like to find some more answers than just believe it was timing. I think we've got a few more things to understand with the intermediate," the Australian said.
"Personally, I wasn't very happy with the session. It's great for the team...but I think we got a bit lucky.
"In Q1 I was not looking good at all. I thought we were either going to scrape through or get eliminated; the whole session I wasn't really happy.
"In the past in junior formulas, I've sometimes had a lot of success on a drying track. But I think it's just with this intermediate tyre. Maybe, as Valtteri said, it's just a matter of timing or getting it in at the right time to get it working.
"I didn't feel that we found that at all today. So, for that reason, I think we have a bit more knowledge with an extreme or a dry."
With Sunday's forecast drier, albeit still with a chance of showers, it therefore came as little surprise to hear Ricciardo's preference for race conditions.
"I'm either hoping for extreme wet or dry. This in-the-middle greasy stuff is not great. I would prefer one or the other - hopefully dry. I think we had good pace yesterday," the 23-year-old responded.
In the dry, he thinks "we can definitely look to jump a few guys. I'll be looking forward tomorrow and not in my mirrors that's for sure".
And if there's a rain shower? "Just do the best I can - drive hard. Hopefully it's a bit more so we can use the extreme. I like driving in the wet so there's no issue there.
"It's probably that we've got our hands full in those greasy conditions."
Asked what conditions he would prefer, Vergne simply shrugged. "I don't mind. It can be dry, it can be wet. I just want to make a good start and then we will see how the car performs."