Reliability under the spotlight at Sepang this weekend
Why Formula One racings top engineers will be feeling somewhat nervous in Malaysia - Toyotas Luca Marmorini explains.
Under the revised regulations for 2005 a drivers engine must last for two complete race meetings, hence this weekends Sepang event is a rather special occasion. For the first time, most of the drivers will be starting a grand prix weekend with exactly the same engine they finished the previous race with.
Marmorini, Toyotas engine technical director spoke to the team about this watershed race, his views on the regulations and what he thinks the Japanese squad can achieve in Kuala Lumpur.
Q: Luca, what are your thoughts heading into the Malaysian Grand Prix?
Luca Marmorini: I am looking forward to seeing the race in Malaysia because this will be the first time that we will be able to see the impact of the new two-race, one-engine rules. We have done the best job that we can to prepare our engine for Australia and Malaysia, but it is natural that I feel a bit nervous because we have never had to complete two race weekends with one engine before. It is an excited nervous feeling though, full of expectation and anticipation. This weekend we will see if everything that we have planned, developed and accomplished over the winter is good enough.
Q: Were you surprised by the lack of reliability issues in Melbourne?
LM: Honestly, I did not expect to see any teams with engine reliability issues in Australia and it was clear that engine reliability was impressive throughout the grid. Even last year, most teams were confident with their engine life over one race weekend, so I do not think anyone envisaged any dramas in Melbourne.
Q: Is the new engine regulation strict enough in your point of view?
LM: There is still a grey area in the 2005 engine regulations, whereby a driver can come into the pits before the end of the race, effectively retiring a problem-free car, and then be permitted to change the engine for the next race.
Q: What is Toyota's opinion on such loopholes?
LM: Toyota is against the existence of such loopholes in technical regulations. Toyota fully accepted the spirit and intention of the new two race, one engine regulation. We gave the chance for the team to run in all four free practice sessions in Australia, not only because it is important to learn the car's behaviour at the track, but also because our participation in all sessions over the weekend is part of the F1 show. Even though our drivers did not score any points in the race, we decided to pass the chequered flag out of respect for the spirit of the new rules. This obviously increases the chance of having an engine failure in Malaysia, but this is what we understand by the concept of racing.
Q: Is this why Ralf Schumacher's engine was not changed after qualifying in Australia?
LM: Yes - Ralf's qualifying was massively negated by the bad weather and left him near the back of the grid. It would have been easier to change the engine in those conditions with a comparatively minimal penalty, but to do this, especially in the first race, is not acceptable in our opinion. During the course of the season, we may change an engine if there are doubts or issues technically, but we should avoid it wherever possibly as part of the gentleman's agreement that was accepted before the season started.
Q: Ralf and Jarno completed a lot of laps in Melbourne what is the current mileage of their respective RVX-05 engines?
LM: In Australia, I think we were the team who completed most kilometres over the weekend at least us and Jordan probably! Ralf has around 570km on his RVX-05 already, whilst Jarno has about 670km.
Q: How is the working relationship with Jordan?
LM: I think everything ran extremely smoothly between Jordan and Toyota in Australia. Jordan appear to be pleased with the contribution that we have made to their team, but we are also particularly pleased with how the operated. They have three inexperienced drivers and this can increase the misuse of the engine, but we are happy with the job they did and we are looking forward to seeing them improve. Luckily, we are next door to them in the paddock, so our working relationship is very close. It can be more stressful for me as Technical Director Engine, though, because I now have four babies to look after during the weekend.
Q: How will performance of the engine be affected as it is the second race weekend?
LM: Typically the performance of an engine increases a bit after the first 200-300 kilometres. The performance level gets higher compared to the first laps. When speaking about performance of the engine, we also speak about the stability of the performance. We want to have an engine that is still stable in terms of its power even after 1200km. This is the parameter we work to and how we develop our engines. Towards the end of the engine life, there will be a decrease of performance, but our job is to limit this drop off.
Q: Aside from the rules, what is the biggest pressure exerted on the engine in Malaysia?
LM: Quite simply, the heat. Everyone remarks that Malaysia is hot, but it is the biggest problem we will face because it affects all aspects of the team from the car to the driver, even to the mechanics working in the garage. Malaysia is the first really hot race of the season, perhaps even the hottest so the internal working conditions of the engine could be critical. The Sepang International Circuit has two very long straights, so maximum speed is as important as downforce. But the heat is again the defining issue. We are able to replicate the Malaysian heat in our transient dyno in Cologne, so we have worked hard to make sure the engine has been run in even hotter conditions to those we expect to see this weekend, just to cover all eventualities.
Q: What precautions do you take for Malaysia in terms of cooling?
LM: The aerodynamics department has to work a lot in advance of the race to open up the car at the rear to allow more airflow to the radiators. Our aero team have brought some extremely efficient solutions for engine cooling, so I do not think we will encounter any significant problems.
Q: Finally, what are your personal goals for Malaysia?
LM: If we can finish the Malaysian GP with a combined engine distance over two races of nearly 1400km with no problems, I will be a very proud and happy man. If we add some championship points to that, I'll be ecstatic.