Toyotas Pascal Vasselon on Interlagos 17 Oct 2007
From groundhogs in Montreal to the weather in Fuji, this season seems to have been full of hazards. At this weekends Brazilian race it will be the circuits bumps which are set to cause teams the biggest headaches. Toyotas general manager (chassis), Pascal Vasselon, is no stranger to the challenging characteristics of the Sao Paulo circuit and here he describes its unique appeal and reveals his plan for a perfect set-up
Q: What are the main characteristics of Interlagos?
Pascal Vasselon: The circuit itself is unique in that it is probably the only track where suspension settings are so important. Normally the main performance factors on an F1 car are aerodynamics and tyre usage. At Interlagos it is still about tyre usage but suspension settings are clearly a major performance factor due to the bumpy nature of the track. You basically have to find a way to keep your wheels on the ground and so set-up parameters that are secondary everywhere else become key in Brazil.
Q: Do the nature of the bumps change year to year with land movement?
PV: They may change but you know you have to deal with bumps that are well distributed over the whole lap. One especially difficult bump is the one in Turn 11, a quick left-hander. The bump there is more of a problem because of the speed at that part of the track.
Q: Will there be any factors especially relevant to this years race?
PV: An interesting thing about going to Sao Paulo in 2007 is the tyre choice. Bridgestone has proposed us the two softest compounds - Monaco compounds. But in terms of tyre severity, Interlagos is much harder than Monaco so one of the challenges of the weekend will be tyre management and we expect the track to be tough on the softer tyre in particular. We dont really expect the very soft compound to be that raceable. It should be okay in qualifying but definitely in the race it will be hard to make it survive.
Q: Does the long, uphill straight have any implications?
PV: Because of it, you might be tempted to go light in terms of downforce but its something you simply cannot do, especially if you struggle with traction. Its a circuit where you have many events with very strong coupling between lateral forces and traction, so if you start to degrade the tyres you have to put on more downforce. Usually, therefore, you run higher downforce levels than you would otherwise expect.
Q: Turn One seems like a real overtaking opportunity?
PV: The races have shown us that it is one of the places where you can pass. I think everyone well remembers the move by Juan Pablo Montoya on Michael Schumacher in 2001. You can pass there but you need to have good top speed and the move is never easy.
Q: What are the working conditions like in Brazil?
PV: We cannot say that the facilities are outstanding. The most critical factor for us is the limited space available. We really have to think hard about the quantity of spare parts and material that we take to Interlagos because we dont have enough room. Its a little bit like Monaco - at some places you have to accept the downsides to go and race there.
Q: Is there a special feeling being in Brazil?
PV: In the last 30 years or so there have been so many Brazilian drivers, and they have won multiple championships - Fittipaldi, Piquet, Senna. It is a nation that cares a lot about motorsport. We enjoy going there because in Brazil there just seems to be more fans than virtually anywhere else - they have a true passion. Motorsport, together with soccer, is important to Brazilians. With the spectators thronging in those big grandstands right opposite the pits you simply cannot miss the Brazilian drivers.