James Key felt that the straight-line speed deficit of the 2015 Ferrari power unit was the main reason for Scuderia Toro Rosso’s relatively disappointing qualifying performance at Suzuka on Saturday.
Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr both qualified on the seventh row of the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix, and technical director Key believed that with a stronger power unit they could have been higher, with their strengths coming in the opening sector of the lap where power is less dependant.
“We hoped for a bit more today, but I think realistically we probably did as well as we could,” said Key. “We were happy with certain aspects of our balance from yesterday but not so much with others, so we worked overnight on some of the slow-speed corner performance and it looked better in FP3.
“We didn’t progress much in Q2 with our lap times, but most of our performance loss was from the straights between Turns 11 and 13 and Turns 14 and 16 which we cannot do much about, we finished around three tenths off the top ten. The second half of the lap here in Suzuka relies a lot on straight-line speed, which is quite a big weakness for us now.
“We played to our strengths with our set-up to try and maximize our cornering capability, and that kind of shows in Sector 1 compared to Sectors 2 and 3.”
Key believes there is still a lot of potential to get a good result on Sunday despite their shortfalls in pace, with the team happy with how their long run pace seemed to be during practice on Friday, and has not ruled out breaking into the top ten.
“To have both cars next to each other, mid-grid, with reasonably good long-run pace from yesterday’s high fuel work and a free choice of tyres I think it’s all still to play for tomorrow,” said Key. “There are cars ahead which on race pace we hope to overhaul and we’re surrounded by some interesting competition as well, with Williams just ahead and a McLaren behind.
“I’m looking forward to the race and I think we can be quite hopeful tomorrow to contend for some points.”