March 24th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - The second race of the 2013 season ended in relative disappointment for the Toro Rosso team, after an incident before the race damaged the floor of Ricciardo's car and Vergne lost time in a pit-lane incident that damaged his front wing. A single point was all the team could salvage from a weekend in which both cars looked reasonably competitive.
Malaysia is known for short, heavy rain storms, and delivered just such a downpour shortly before the start of today's Malaysian Grand Prix. The result was a lot of water on the track, which caught out a number of drivers on their way to the grid before the race. Daniel Ricciardo was one such unfortunate driver, and took a trip across the gravel on the exit of turn 3, damaging the floor of his car in the process. There was no time to repair the car before the start of the race, which meant Ricciardo's performance was compromised from the very beginning. In the closing stages of the race, Ricciardo was forced to retire with a broken exhaust.
Vergne had a strong race, showing good pace throughout the afternoon. He was the unfortunate victim of a mistake by his pit crew, who released him after a pitstop right into the path of a Caterham that was entering its own pit box. The two cars collided, damaging both of their front wings. Vergne's team pulled him back into the pit box and changed his wing, but there was no recovering the time lost in the incident, and Vergne had to fight hard to make his way into tenth place by the end of the race. If not for the pitlane incident, Vergne could have been fighting with the McLaren of Sergio Perez in the closing stages of the race, and would likely have scored an extra few points.
This is what the Toro Rosso team had to say after the race:
Jean-Éric Vergne: “It’s good to finish in the points, but it’s a shame that a mistake in the pits cost us so much, as I could have done something better. So, overall I feel rather frustrated. But I’ll take the point gladly. After these first two races, we now have a short break before we go racing again and we must use that time to take a close look at how we performed and where we can do better, because there is certainly a lot of room for improvement, as both these two races have been missed opportunities. On the positive side, again today, once we got over our problems I had a good race pace and managed to make up a lot of places.”
Daniel Ricciardo: “I compromised my race even before the start when the conditions were very slippery, aquaplaning off at Turn 3. I managed to keep going, but I went across the gravel quite fast and damaged the floor. That probably played a part in my problem at the end. I got a reasonable start and made up a few places and was pretty pleased with the first couple of laps. But I did not have the pace to keep the Lotuses behind me and stay in the top ten, even though the switch to dry tyres was well timed. Like I said, I think the damage on that opening lap affected my overall performance all race long.”
Franz Tost, team principal: “An eventful race with the field starting on Intermediates. We timed our switch to slicks well on both cars and Daniel made up a few positions straight away. The midfield battle was very fierce and we had one car at the front, Daniel, and one at the back of this group, Jev. Unfortunately, we had a poor release from Jev’s pit stop and he collided with a Caterham which cost us a lot of time, as we had to pull him back for a new nose. The Stewards have fined us for a dangerous release from a pit stop and we agree with their decision. After that, Jev did a good job to fight back and get into the points ahead of that midfield group, which is quite an achievement on a dry track. The fact our race pace was satisfactory was the most positive point of the race. In Daniel’s case, he went off on the lap to the grid and raced with a damaged floor, so taking that into account and how it affected his car, his performance in those circumstances was also positive. Unfortunately, we had an exhaust issue on his car in the closing laps and decided it was best to retire him in the pits. In general, our race performance was good, but we are too slow in qualifying. We have to find a way of improving on Saturday afternoons, so that we give ourselves a better start on Sundays.”