Toyota look to maintain eastern promise 18 Apr 2005
After achieving unprecedented success in the opening three flyaway rounds of 2005, a new challenge awaits the Toyota team as they head back to the western hemisphere and the traditional start of the European season, the San Marino Grand Prix. Can the Japanese squad maintain their momentum? Technical director Mike Gascoyne believes so, as he explained to Toyotas press office
Q: Do you think that Toyota will continue to be competitive in Imola?
Mike Gascoyne: After the first three races of the season, it is always a time for reassessment of where we stand relative to our competitors. In three races, we have qualified in the top three at each event and picked up two podium positions. We struggled in the race in Melbourne for different reasons, but our true pace was demonstrated in Malaysia and Bahrain. I honestly do not see any reason why that level of competitiveness should not continue in Imola and beyond. We have understood how the car works with the Michelin tyres. We just have to ensure that our tyre choice for each race is correct, which was perhaps not the case in Melbourne, but if we can do that I do not see why we can't perform at the same level throughout the season. Imola does not hold any particular fears or worries for me.
Q: What are the technical challenges posed by the Imola circuit?
MG: At Imola, we run slightly higher downforce settings than we have in recent races. It is also hard on the brakes, as in fact Bahrain was and we were comfortable with the brakes there. Temperatures will be cooler, which places less stress on the car. We have several slow speed chicanes and use of the kerbs is an issue, but I feel that we have greatly enhanced the car mechanically and aerodynamically. In the past, Toyota has struggled at circuits like Imola with pronounced kerbs, but I really do not think that should be a problem. When the car is off the pace in Imola, drivers tend to use the kerbs more to compensate and that unbalances the car a lot. When the car is competitive, that is not such a problem.
Q: How well do you expect the TF105 to perform at Imola?
MG: After Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain, we have gone round almost every type of corner there is on the calendar and we have been pretty good at all of them. I do not think that there are any major issues with the car. Of course, we need to go even quicker, but stability under braking has been good and traction has been good, both of which are important aspects of the car's behaviour for Imola.
Q: Does Toyota have any upgrades to the TF105 for Imola?
MG: We have new parts for Imola, but so too will all other teams. It is traditional for everyone to say that they have identified the weaknesses in their package and have put them right in time for San Marino, but I think most teams will be in pretty much the same position in Imola as in the first three races of the year. The only thing I would say will be different is that Bridgestone will improve and consequently Ferrari will be stronger. Ferrari will undoubtedly not remain where they have been all season. They will make progress with the car and Bridgestone will also progress with the tyres and should emerge once again as a force to be reckoned with.
Q: What specific parts are new to the Imola-spec TF105?
MG: Specifically we have a new diffuser, a new sidepod package, some new wishbones, a new front wing, essentially all modifications aimed at improving the car's aerodynamics. Overall, it represents a reasonable step forward. Some parts were tested during the post-Bahrain Barcelona and Paul Ricard tests, for example the diffuser and side pods. The front wing will not appear until the race, but we have a lot of confidence in our wind-tunnel work, so we have no problems with introducing new parts at races.
Q: Is it fair to say that Jarno Trulli has the edge on Ralf Schumacher?
MG: To say that a driver has an edge over the other is totally wrong, just because one driver has had better results over the other after three races. Ralf made a couple of small mistakes in qualifying that has made his races more difficult but in many ways his determined driver to fourth in Bahrain was stronger than Jarno's race to second because it required much more effort. We have the right environment for them at Toyota. Both are happy with the car and the team and both seem to be enjoying their race weekends. Ralf is not annoyed that Jarno has scored two podiums because he can see the potential and feels part of the team. It is very much a team result, rather than an individual driver result. Ralf is not worried - he knows his time will come.