Jean-Eric Vergne became the second driver (after Pastor Maldonado of Lotus) to receive a ten-place grid penalty this weekend after his Scuderia Toro Rosso team were forced to change the engine in the back of his car for a sixth unit.
The Frenchman has had very little running in Japan, after seeing Max Verstappen make his free practice debut on Friday morning, and then suffering two mechanical issues in the afternoon session on Friday. He managed only three laps on Saturday morning before the team got to work changing his engine.
He initially qualified eleventh, but will start twenty-first on Sunday, and despite his truncated and problem-filled weekend, felt happy with his display in qualifying.
“I’m really satisfied with my qualifying today, especially considering how the weekend had gone so far for me,” said Vergne. “I didn’t drive FP1, I had two technical issues in FP2 which shortened my running time, and could complete only 3 laps in FP3 this morning.
“However, the team was able to set up the car in time for Qualifying and I managed to do my job well this afternoon on a difficult track like Suzuka. It ‘s an extremely good job from the whole team, something to be pleased about. The race is tomorrow and anything can happen, even starting from the back of the grid.”
Team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who has already taken a grid drop penalty earlier this season for a sixth engine, will start twelfth, but the young Russian admits he is on cloud nine after being told he was being promoted to the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team in 2015 in place of the outgoing Sebastian Vettel.
“It’s been a very special Saturday here in Japan today, as I was told that I would be driving for Infiniti Red Bull Racing next year,” said an ecstatic Kvyat. “It’s a fantastic feeling and a great opportunity and honour for me, so I want to thank Red Bull for trusting me.
“As for qualifying today, I’m happy with our general performance, but we could have done better. Q1 was fine, but in Q2, my last flying lap was disrupted by some slower cars in front of me. When I arrived in Turn 1, my tyres were not up to temperature and so the lap was compromised, as getting into a rhythm is very important here. But still, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s race, whatever the weather may be!”