Q&A with Toyotas Pascal Vasselon 18 Jul 2007
Although Toyota showed potential during qualifying at the British Grand Prix, the team struggled for reliability in the race and both Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher retired early. Pascal Vasselon, the Japanese squad's general manager (chassis), reveals performance expectations for this weekends race at the Nurburgring
Q: Is it fair to say the team had a promising but frustrating British Grand Prix?
Pascal Vasselon: Obviously we struggled to deliver a race result which corresponded to our level of our performance and unfortunately its not the first time. At Silverstone our level of performance was good - the best so far this season - and we were where we have to be, fighting with BMW and ahead of the rest. Thats where we were in terms of outright pace, slightly faster than Renault, at the level of BMW Sauber. On one hand its satisfying but we did not achieve a result at the end of the day so that is disappointing.
Q: What happened to cause Ralf and Jarno to retire?
PV: During the Silverstone race we ran into some issues. With Ralf we faced a problem on the front left wheel at the pit stop which forced him to retire because the wheel was not properly tightened. And with Jarno it was a different story. From the beginning of the weekend, Jarno was less comfortable than Ralf with the set-up of the car, but it was clearly not a major drama because he was able to qualify in the top 10 and not far away from Ralf, but definitely he was less comfortable. Apparently an unusual track condition developed on Sunday and for Jarno it turned into a situation where he had no balance or grip. So after trying things like changing tyre pressures, tyre compounds and the nose, we had nothing left to help him.
Q: How about Schumachers performance over the weekend?
PV: Ralf had a very strong weekend. From the very first outing in P1 to the race itself, Ralf performed well all weekend, especially being able to put together all his best sector times for the last outing in Q2 when it really matters. That was a very good achievement.
Q: Do we have any updates on the car for the European Grand Prix?
PV: We have a small aero upgrade to the car for the Nurburgring. Its the kind of continuous upgrade that we aim to do at most races. Sometimes we have big packages which come together with changes to the floor or the bodywork. That will be the case for Budapest where we will have a new package for that race but this is just a continuous upgrade to get a couple more points of aero efficiency.
Q: How does the Nurburgring compare to Silverstone - can we expect to transfer our competitive pace?
PV: We definitely hope to show the same level of performance. The track character is different because Silverstone is an extreme track in terms of tyre severity, for example, and in terms of average cornering speed. Nurburgring is more average in all aspects - in terms of downforce, as we will run medium downforce, in terms of braking stability it is very average, in terms of tyre usage it is similar to Magny-Cours but a little less severe without a strong dominance of front or rear limitation. You have a bit of everything - you can be traction limited and front end limited. It is an average track but it doesnt mean that average is not interesting - its a challenging track but without the special character of Silverstone, for example.
Q: Are there any unique factors to the Nurburgring?
PV: The unique factor is the weather. When you have sunshine it is a very nice place, with charming countryside but we know that with the strange climatic conditions we are facing in Europe it could be something really unusual or unexpected - its a good idea to bring your warm, waterproof jacket!
Q: What is your personal experience of the old Nurburgring?
PV: I went there one time a few years ago with a sporty saloon car from one of Toyotas rivals and I had to stop after two or three laps because my brakes were out of order. It had very poor brakes! It is a fantastic place where, on the same lap, you can find professional drivers flat out everywhere, a bus with 40 people inside, mopeds, convertible cars - you can find everything, it is really surprising. Sometimes it is also a little bit scary!
Q: What is the teams goal for this weekend?
PV: Our goal now is to fight with BMW Sauber and push to finish races in the top six. The pace we achieved at Silverstone is our target. We want our drivers to be fighting for the top six.