Toyotas Pascal Vasselon on Shanghai set-up 26 Sep 2006
The winding turns and high-speed straights that characterize the Shanghai International Circuit push drivers and cars to the absolute limit. Here, after an intensive preparatory test session at Silverstone last week, Toyotas general manager (chassis) Pascal Vasselon explains the team's preparations for the Chinese Grand Prix
Q: Will Shanghai still have the 'wow' factor third time there?
Pascal Vasselon: It is one of the most extraordinary paddocks anywhere. You have all the space, the small team bungalows on stilts - amazing. It seems as if there has been a kind of competition among the new circuits to see who can make the most extraordinary circuit and paddock. It's good for F1.
Q: What are the interesting parts of the circuit itself?
PV: In most areas it is an average circuit but there are two very special corners, both long right-handers. The first is T1 at the end of the main straight, which tightens up as it progresses, and the other is out onto the straight at the back of the circuit. These corners are unique to Shanghai and the main consequence in terms of tyres is that they put the emphasis on graining or wear of the front left. Last year one or two cars had a difficult time finishing the race because of the left front tyre.
Q: So any tyre problems are a direct consequence of those two corners?
PV: Yes. In terms of technical data T1 has an interesting consequence in that you see the highest steering loading of the whole season there. It's due to very high speed cornering with simultaneous braking.
Q: What kind of downforce levels do you run?
PV: Another special feature of Shanghai is the compromise between downforce and end-of-straight speed. The exit of the second long right-hander is the dominant factor regarding the following straight. We have seen some strange things where, surprisingly, the car went faster on average down the straight with more downforce. It's simply because the exit of this very long right-hand corner is so key.
Q: Are there any other special considerations?
PV: I'd say that in other respects Shanghai is average in terms of brakes, tyre compounds and downforce with its unique features mostly related to those two special corners.
Q: How do you expect the Toyotas to perform in China?
PV: We will have the same high expectations that we had when we went to Hockenheim and Turkey. The results did not go for us maybe, but the pace was strong and we were among the top cars. We were out of the qualifying top 10 in Monza for the first time since the beginning of the season but Jarno (Trulli) was only 0.7s away from the quickest time in Q2 and he scored points. Monza is a bit like Monaco, a one-off, where you come with a special package. We were not as competitive as we expected but we still scored points. In Shanghai we will be back to a car configuration close to the previous races where we performed very well.
Q: Are there any operational problems to cope with in Shanghai?
PV: We were expecting some the first time we went in 2004 but in the end, as usual, when you expect difficulties you prepare well and everything went quite smoothly both times.
Q: Where do we stand with Shanghai and engine homologation?
PV: As far as I understand the Monza engines have been sealed as back-up engines but then, if the latest specification V8s do Shanghai and Suzuka, they will be the ones to be homologated.