Jean-Eric Vergne was feeling extremely pleased with himself following a fifth fastest time in Free Practice 2 on Friday.
Vergne, who in recent races has been overshadowed by the rumours surrounding his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, outshone the Australian in the afternoon practice session at Spa-Francorchamps, with a laptime of 1:50.253, over a second faster than his Toro Rosso stable mate.
The Frenchman explained that Friday had gone just to plan for his Toro Rosso team, despite the less than ideal weather conditions that affected the morning session.
“Friday went very smoothly for us”, he said. “The morning conditions were not ideal, as it was too wet for dry tyres and too dry for the rain tyres, but we still learnt something which could be useful later in the weekend, even if the tyres never got up to temperature.”
The 23-year-old was particularly impressed with his performance in FP2, where he felt he unlocked the true potential of the car over one lap, which he believes bodes well for a strong weekend for the Faenza based squad, having failed to score points in the last two races.
“Then, we had a good FP2, with the car showing excellent pace over a single lap. The long run was a bit more difficult, but all the same, I feel we have a good car this weekend, whether we run in the dry or the wet. Probably one of the best first days I’ve had: there were no problems and the car seems to be working well.”
Daniel Ricciardo in the sister Toro Rosso had a less notable day, with his running limited by the tricky conditions in the morning, only then to suffer in the afternoon when he pursued a set-up that ultimately did not work on his STR8.
However, the Australian is hopeful that Vergne’s performance in FP2 means that the team has some real pace around the Ardennes circuit that could signal a good weekend for Toro Rosso.
“Conditions this morning were the ones no one really likes, with part of the track dry and part wet”, said the 24-year-old. “We ran on Intermediates, but the dry bits of the circuit meant the tyres got a bit chewed up.
“In the afternoon, we split the workload between the two cars. We tried a direction on my car that we believed would work, but unfortunately it didn’t. However, the good news is that Jev seemed to be on the pace, so we can look at his data and get a useful compromise for both cars.
“I’m not happy to be down the bottom of the timesheet, but it’s not a reason to be discouraged, because I feel we can deliver tomorrow and aim to get both cars well up the grid.”