SEPANG: He gave Toyota their first ever podium finish in F1 with a second placing at the Petronas Malaysian GP last year.
But this year, Jarno Trulli is among the stragglers. He struggled to finish in 16th place at the opening GP in Bahrain while his teammate Ralf Schumacher came in 14th.
And Trulli expects Sepang to be harder.
“Of course our form in Bahrain suggests that this year's race will be much harder.
“We were expecting a better start but now we have to work to improve our performance,” he said.
“Of course we cannot change much in time for Malaysia but hopefully we can keep up the learning process with the aim of moving up over the next few races.
“The new qualifying system has gone down well but we saw in Bahrain how chaotic it can be with all the traffic out at the same time.”
Trulli has contested in 150 GPs and has only one win to his credit. That was in Monaco in 2004 where he raced for Renault. His second place finish at Sepang last year was also his first podium finish in Malaysia since 1999. He joined the Toyota outfit last year.
Trulli believes Toyota can be competitive this year.
“But as seen in Bahrain, we have a lot of work to do.”
Ralf, who was a winner here in 2002 with Williams, feels he can do better at the very familiar Sepang circuit.
“Of course we will face completely different conditions in Sepang, where both drivers and engineers face the extra challenge of the heat and the humidity.
“But I have had some great races here so I'm looking forward to racing here,” he said.
Toyota technical director Luca Marmorini said: “Obviously the Bahrain Grand Prix was a major disappointment to everyone in the team because we were not where we hoped we would be.
“Sepang may have come a bit soon to have any major impact but we have at least collected data from the Bahrain weekend that should help us.”