Vasselon on Toyotas second home race 21 Jul 2006
Toyota may be a Japanese team, but being based in Cologne means next weekends Hockenheim race is practically on their doorstep. General manager (chassis) Pascal Vasselon discusses the technical requirements of the circuit, the teams recent progress and the updates they have in store for the TF106B
Q: What can we say about the new Hockenheim?
Pascal Vasselon: It is our second home race and for sure it will be special for us. We will have a lot of people from TMG in Cologne at the race and it is always nice to give them something to cheer about.
Q: The flat-out old Hockenheim was different. What about the current track?
PV: In terms of the circuit it is one of the harder ones in the championship. It is not as hard as Barcelona or Silverstone but it is challenging in a number of aspects. The braking is nothing compared to Montreal but you do generate temperature and wear. And on the tyre front you can end up with rear problems. It is challenging for both the construction and the compound. It's down to the long straight, which is actually like a long corner. It's not like a high g corner but there is some extra load and force because of the curvature.
Q: Is that the factor that most limits performance?
PV: We monitor the construction endurance but we are confidence it will be under control. Overall though, Hockenheim is quite hard on tyres and one of the factors contributing to that over the last few years has been the temperature. It has always been very hot, around 50 degrees. Also Budapest. Hockenheim and Budapest, together with Sepang in Malaysia tend to be the three hottest races in the championship. Magny Cours is more about the heat retaining black surface but with the other three it's down to location and timing.
Q: What do you think of Hockenheim as a circuit to race on?
PV: It has lost the unique layout that it used to have. When it went flat-out through the forest for most of its length you had no choice but to run very low downforce and then you had to scramble through the tight stadium section. It was a bit like Indianapolis in that respect. Now, you'd have to say that it is an average layout with nothing really special but there is no doubt that the safety has improved even if it has lost some of its identity.
Q: But does it have an overtaking opportunity?
PV: Yes, you can pass at the hairpin. And it's much more feasible than in Magny Cours, for example, because you have a hairpin and long straight and the corner onto the straight is a slow one, which are the ingredients that you need.
Q: What are the main factors behind the progress Toyota is making?
PV: When we introduced the 106B in Monaco it was mainly a mechanical upgrade but the target was to allow further aerodynamic upgrades and as a matter of fact we have had new things at all recent races. It is a constant process and they add up to worthwhile gains. Some of them are very visible and others are more subtle things which are easy to copy but not easy to spot, so best keep quiet!
Q: Have you made mechanical changes too?
PV: We had suspension modifications front and rear at Magny-Cours and Ralf had the latest specification engine, while Jarno was doing the second race on his Indy-spec engine. He will have the later unit at Hockenheim. We have also been working hard on our starts and we have another aero upgrade planned for Hockenheim.
Q: Are you happy with the level of progress?
PV: Most leading teams have upgrades scheduled at almost all the races and the question becomes: do they work? That is dependent on the efficiency of the wind tunnel and the correlation between tunnel and track. Sometimes you find a few points of downforce in the tunnel and you don't see it on the track, but at the moment we are seeing good translation between the tunnel and the track.
Q: Do you have a better handle on the Bridgestone tyres now?
PV: Immediately after Bahrain we managed to solve the tyre problem that we had there, although people carried on talking about it because it was a big one! At Sepang we were very competitive although it was not so visible because Ralf had the pneumatic pressure problem and made additional stops. But he still finished eighth and had pace that was close to his brother and Ferrari. From Melbourne on we had solved our problem with a combination of Bridgestone bringing new compounds - of a family we are still developing - which made 60 percent of the improvement and the rest we did with set up evolutions. I wouldn't say we have special tyre issues any longer.
Q: Do you have any major steps planned at any point or will it be the regular small updates for the remainder of the season?
PV: We will have the continuous flow of developments and also a bigger update, possibly for Turkey but it is a little too early to confirm, and also some suspension upgrades.