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Interview with Toyota's Pascal Vasselon 20 Jun 2006

Pascal Vasselon (FRA) Toyota General Manager Design.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Preparations, Silverstone, England, 8 June 2006

Like most, Pascal Vasselon, Toyota’s general manager (chassis), is a big fan of Montreal, venue for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix. Speaking to the team’s press office, Vasselon explains what makes the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve so special…

Q: What stands out about Montreal?
Pascal Vasselon:
For me, in terms of atmosphere, it is the second best race after Monaco. It is very nice to go there, we are really welcomed by the Montreal people and the race has a really good vibe to it.

Q: Does Circuit Gilles Villeneuve have any special characteristics?
PV:
It is not like typical circuits. It features very long straights and only slow corners. So when the car is going quick, it is in a straight line and the rest of the time it is slow. The challenge is therefore to achieve good high-speed braking stability without too much slow-speed understeer.

Q: It is reputedly tough on brakes. How tough?
PV:
The contrast between the high-speed sections and slow corner speeds means that the brakes have a very difficult time. It is simply the worst circuit of the season for brakes and so we pay special attention to brake ducts and cooling.

Q: Do you experiment much with different types of brake pad material?
PV:
I would say that the most important parameter is brake cooling and making sure that we stay precisely in the window, because we know precisely in which window we have to operate the disc. Then, after that, it's all about wear estimation. We will dedicate part of the running plan to making sure that we have the wear under control and we can extrapolate the wear for the race.

Q: Jarno Trulli had a brake problem last year. What happened?
PV:
We had a cooling situation that was marginal and after a few laps we lost the telemetry data to monitor the wear and the temperature. So we were at the limit and we could not spot a critical situation arising when we lost the data, around lap 37, I think. If we could have seen the problem arising we could have asked Jarno to control the braking pressure a little bit, or maybe alter the brake balance.

Q: How much does a driver have to back off to look after the brakes?
PV:
It's interesting. The wear rates relative to the surface temperature of the disc is a very non-linear relationship so sometimes, with just slightly lower brake pressure, which only slightly affects performance and lap time, you can make a big difference to the brakes. There is room to control it.

Q: Does the weather make any difference?
PV:
No. Formula One brakes operate at temperatures that are sometimes around 800 degrees C, and so a plus or minus five degree change in the ambient makes no difference.

Q: What about running close behind another car?
PV:
That can cause problems. Usually the worst moment for temperature and wear is the first lap of the race in traffic but the problems don't occur then. What can happen is that at that time you initiate the wear and then it just continues and causes problems at the end of the race. The most non-linear accelerated wear rate is usually in the first laps.

Q: In terms of aero set-up, you presumably run in low downforce trim?
PV:
For sure. Montreal is one of the places where we go for maximum efficiency, second only to Monza I'd say. We have to make it stable enough for high-speed braking without low-speed understeer.

Q: With so many slow-speed corners, is traction control especially important?
PV:
Yes, traction is important in Montreal and it's also where the tyre choice comes in. We tend to go on the soft side with the tyres to favour traction.

Q: And without high-speed corners presumably it is not too tough on tyres?
PV:
We can run on the soft side because, usually, loads that are severe on the tyres come from high-speed corners, which there is an absence of in Canada. Also, when it rains, which does happen sometimes, the circuit grip is very low. That is due to the smoothness of the surface and we have to very careful with the compound choice to make sure that the warming up of the wet compound is satisfactory.

Q: Are there many overtaking opportunities?
PV:
As usual it is not easy but it is possible to overtake at the last chicane before the start/finish line. That is usually where we see all overtaking moves and occasionally at the hairpin.

Q: How do you expect the TF106B to go in Montreal?
PV:
We are really looking forward to it because we will have mechanical and aerodynamic updates on the car in Canada and we are interested to see how they perform.

Q: Personally, any favourite spots to visit in Montreal?
PV:
This is where I am going to sound very sad but, you know, we have so little time to enjoy ourselves that it is simply about the atmosphere when we travel to the circuit and then back to the hotel! Usually we will only arrive in Canada on the Wednesday night and we are busy at the circuit from Thursday. Jacques Villeneuve has a restaurant, Newtown, on Crescent St, which is a famous street with lots going on. Maybe we'll get there for an hour on Saturday night if we are very lucky!