Analysis: McLaren are Trulli Alert

Kimi Raikkonen will be truly unhappy if the car in front is a Toyota in Sunday's German Grand Prix

Analysis: McLaren are Trulli Alert

After starting the last two races with a 10-place penalty on the grid because of engine failures in practice, McLaren's Finnish title challenger is looking for a trouble-free weekend and a front row slot at Hockenheim.

If all goes to plan, he need not worry about Toyota's Jarno Trulli.

Polite, thoughtful and eloquent - except on those occasions when he has lost his voice - the Italian has been enjoying an exceptional season with his Cologne-based team.

Trulli has given Toyota a first podium placing, with second place in Malaysia and Bahrain, and their first pole position in Formula One.

But he has also dealt Championship hopefuls McLaren a headache in their battle with leaders Renault.

"He does two things," McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh observed after the last British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

"Trulli tends to bunch the frontrunners together, he lets the leading car or cars get away and that's the problem.

"Once you get free, whoever was in front of Trulli has created enough space that it's very difficult to contend with."

Quick Qualifier

Despite past doubts about his race pace, Trulli has long had a reputation as a quick qualifier and a driver as able as anybody to put in that one flying lap and extract the maximum from it.

Compared to his German teammate Ralf Schumacher, the Italian has been faster 10 times out of 11 qualifying sessions so far this year.

He has beaten Ralf six times in the eight races they have both finished.

That burst of form has translated into a tactical dilemma for teams with faster cars when they find themselves bottled up behind Trulli.

"I agree completely with McLaren that you've got to get ahead on the grid of Jarno Trulli, otherwise you are stuffed," said BAR boss Nick Fry.

"We're happy to start with Renaults and McLarens because we'll know they've got good pace and so you can actually go away from the rest of the grid very quickly.

"But if you are behind Jarno Trulli, frankly your race is finished. That's where they (Toyota) are at the moment."

In France, the Italian qualified on the front row alongside Fernando Alonso, Renault's Championship leader and his former teammate. As Alonso disappeared into the distance, Trulli held up the rest of the field including Raikkonen.

At Silverstone, the Finn again had a problem.

"I lost a lot of time behind other cars," he said. "It's difficult to get close in the fast corners as you just lose all the grip. When I got past Michael (Schumacher) and Trulli in the pitstops, it was too late and the gap to the front was too big."

Some Return

Toyota's reply, in a season that has seen the big-budget team finally see some return for their money, is both robust and unrepentant.

"They have to try harder to pass us," said technical director Mike Gascoyne. "If it's the case that the car is struggling on race pace but we get it up there and score points because of it, then we're doing a good job.

"There have been races where we've qualified like that and raced just behind Alonso."

Trulli, who finished third at Hockenheim in 2003 for Renault, said he was looking forward to scoring points at a home race for Toyota.

The circuit marked a turning point in his career last year as the place where he announced he would be leaving Renault.

"There is only one real passing point, at the end of the long straight, so you need to have good straightline speed in the race to make sure you don't lose out," he said.

"After missing out on the points at Silverstone, rest assured I will do everything for a better result."

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