Q&A with Toyotas Pascal Vasselon 03 Jul 2007
After a difficult French Grand Prix on Sunday, Toyota are hoping for better things at Silverstone this weekend. Senior general manager (chassis), Pascal Vasselon, talks about what went wrong at Magny-Cours and assesses the teams prospects for the British race
Q: Was it a frustrating race in France?
Pascal Vasselon: Yes, because we could clearly see we had the speed to score points with both cars. Jarnos (Trulli) race ended on the first lap with his collision with Kovalainen but after starting eighth, I believe he would have been challenging for a top six finish. Ralf (Schumacher) was unlucky on the first lap because he lost time avoiding Kovalainens car and that allowed two other cars to pass. He was held up by a slower car but could not pass and this cost him around 20 seconds. When he got past in the first pit stops, his pace was good enough for points but he had lost too much ground by then so that was obviously frustrating.
Q: How do you assess the baseline aerodynamic package we used in Magny-Cours?
PV: In France, we moved back to what we call the baseline, which is the aero package we will use at most of the races, after three Grands Prix with more race-specific packages. We saw with Ralfs speed in the race in France that we are able to post competitive average stint times. It was hard to assess our pace in qualifying because in Magny-Cours you have to wait until the race to really evaluate how the package is as qualifying is so close, with 100ths of a second making a difference. You need the better statistic you get in the race because in qualifying, a difference of a 10th can move your position by two or three places - that can make an average result a good result.
Q: Will we use the same package for Silverstone?
PV: We will operate in the same area. The requirements in terms of aero packages are close, but not exactly the same, between Silverstone and Magny-Cours. As it is a back-to-back race, we will not have any new parts on the car this weekend simply because there is not the time to make this kind of change.
Q: How did the test at Silverstone two weeks ago go?
PV: We were evaluating some elements of our upgraded package and we were also working on set-up for this kind of track with high cornering speed. The test went pretty well, we recorded some fast lap times and ended up quite high in the pecking order while sticking to our usual run plan. Both drivers felt that the car was very reasonable at high speed and it was performing well.
Q: What kind of downforce levels work best at Silverstone?
PV: You have a lot of high-speed corners at Silverstone but the average speed of the circuit is quite high. It is a little bit like Spa in that sense because at Spa high-speed cornering is massively important but the average speed is so high that you go for a lowish downforce set-up. So yes, Silverstone would require a lot of downforce to be faster on some of the high-speed corners but the circuit is fast so you pay for that with drag. There is a compromise but it is not that difficult to simulate and we know after the test pretty well which downforce-drag ratio we have to operate in at Silverstone.
Q: Is wind a factor at Silverstone?
PV: It has a massive effect. The cars use the air to get adherence and stability so as soon as the atmosphere is moving it makes a major change. The drivers are able to describe very precisely any change relating to the wind, especially wind direction. If you have a head wind you perform well in some corners because you have relative speed between the air and the car increases so you get more downforce and the performance improves. If you have tail wind it is good on the straight but it is quite bad for the braking areas and the corners.
Q: Are we prepared if it rains?
PV: Silverstone is different compared to most other circuits because it is a place where you can have continuous rain, as you can in Spa. At most other places in summer you would have a shower and then the track dries that is statistically the most common incident of rain on a race day. But in Silverstone you can have continuous wet conditions and then it is a totally different issue in terms of race management.
Q: Do we focus more on wet weather set-up at some tracks compared to others?
PV: It is very difficult to talk about a wet set-up because your set-up is decided shortly before qualifying so you have to be very confident in the accuracy of the weather forecast for you to go with a wet set-up. It has happened in the past when we are sure it will rain on Sunday, like Spa 2005, and we have been able to focus on a wet weather set-up. Usually you dont sacrifice dry set-up for the wet. It is very rare you can exploit a wet set-up like that - if it rains, you just try to compromise your dry set-up for wet conditions. Basically it is a matter of downforce distribution and tyre pressure. Thats what you are playing with when you steer your set up towards rain.