"You have to say we are the most improved team"
A lot was expected of Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne in 2005. The TF105 was the teams first car developed entirely under his watch and the Japanese company wanted results. Gascoyne duly delivered, the new machine taking two pole positions and five podiums in the hands of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher.
In only their fourth year of Formula One racing, the team scored 88 points - 61 more than in their first three campaigns combined - and finished fourth in the constructors championship, four places up on their previous best. Speaking to Toyotas press office, Gascoyne looks back on a breakthrough season:
Q: Do you think Toyota's strong early season performance surprised people?
Mike Gascoyne: We launched very much a roll-out specification car, very similar to last year's, which was commented on a lot. That was deliberate because we knew we had a big new aero update for the Australian GP. We knew we had a lot of performance coming. Pre-season testing was pleasing apart from one difficult test at Barcelona, which had been resurfaced. Given the fuel loads we had been carrying, I felt that we were okay. I said that we were aiming to be the second or third quickest car by the end of the season and it was trumpeted as an idiotic thing to say, but I was confident. The first race had wet qualifying and we were on the front row. Jarno had some tyre drop-off issues but his first stint looked very competitive. Everyone treated that as a flash in the pan but we thought it showed the car's genuine pace. We were not surprised to do it on merit in Malaysia and Bahrain, and get a pair of second places.
Q: How do you assess the way the year evolved?
MG: We were three or four tenths behind Renault at the start of the season and flattered by McLaren under-performing early on. We had aero updates at every race at that stage of the season and development has been constant. We have lightened the car step-by-step. In the middle of the season we struggled with consistency at the rear end at a few races but with some developments on the car we improved and over the last five or six races were very consistent. I find this perception that we started well but didn't develop as well as other teams unfair. I think we have consistently been the third quickest car in a lot of races close to the end of the season. And we are probably the same 0.3-0.4s behind Renault that we were at the start. I don't see that we have dropped off.
Q: Why do you think you were unable to maintain the early momentum?
MG: We definitely missed out on some results. Monaco was going to be very strong but then Ralf had his qualifying accident, which affected Jarno, who was next out. I think we would certainly have had a podium there. At Nurburgring, Jarno would have been on the podium but we couldn't get the car started in time, and in Canada he was in a podium position when he had a brake failure. In Hungary we were third and fourth and were competitive again in the wet at Spa but made an incorrect strategy call. I am reasonably happy but I do rue the missed opportunities because they, combined with Indy, mean we did not finish third in the championship, which I would have been very happy with. But overall you have to say we are the most improved team, we have done a good job and we are in a good position for next year given that we have been able to introduce the B car even before the end of the season.
Q: What is the thinking behind the TF105B's front suspension?
MG: The TF105B does have a different front suspension and in the wind tunnel we saw quite a sizeable performance gain -- more than we expected. Mechanically, it is quite difficult to implement and I didn't want to risk trying to do it next January. If you have problems at that stage, it is too late to fix it before the season, so we decided we would implement it on the TF105. That involved some compromise but it was primarily meant as a test car. When you do everything the second time, you do a much better job because you discover all the problems first time. That was really the driving force to do it, with the proviso that we could probably take it to the last few races. There are some mechanical difficulties with this type of front suspension. You get the aerodynamic gain but you may be trading off some mechanical losses. We had a couple of problems at the first test but really it has proved to be a positive step, probably more than we expected. With the test break coming up it was sensible to race the car and learn from it.
Q: Have you been happy with the drivers' performance?
MG: Yes. Ralf is very critical of himself in terms of qualifying performance but he's picked up a lot of points. Jarno has been fantastic in qualifying and in races where we've given him a consistent car. He really rues those missed podiums opportunities in Monaco, Nurburgring and Canada.
Q: You have worked with both before. Was their level what you expected?
MG: They are both above what they were. Certainly Jarno is a better driver than when I worked with him before, and Ralf too, has matured. They have still both got the talent they had but they are more complete drivers.