Toyotas Pascal Vasselon on Istanbul Park 22 Aug 2007
Toyota displayed an impressive improvement in pace at the last round in Hungary, hence the team are in upbeat mood heading to this weekends Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul.
Pascal Vasselon, Toyotas senior general manager (chassis), provides as insight into the Japanese teams form and the intricacies of Istanbul Park, where, in terms of set-up and tyres, its all about Turn Eight
Q: Looking ahead to Turkey, how much confidence does Ralf Schumachers sixth place in Hungary give the team?
Pascal Vasselon: The team did a good job in Hungary and Ralf had strong race pace. It was also our best qualifying so far this season and so we can be reasonably happy with how things went. For the first time one of our cars went into Q3 with just one flying lap in Q2, so clearly we were in good shape. We did a lot of work around the tyres because tyre management was the key issue and we made the right decision on strategy in the race. Hopefully we can continue in a similar manner in Turkey.
Q: Do you expect tyres to be so important in Istanbul?
PV: There will be different factors involved. Tyres were the story of the Hungarian weekend because, so far this season, the tyre specifications that we are using, especially the prime, are usually conservative. Sometimes the option creates some problems but in Hungary even the prime had some issues with graining and the option even more. In Turkey, we are back to the conservative end of Bridgestones compound range so there should be no outstanding tyre issues. It will be, however, all about Turn Eight.
Q: You mean the special demands of the high-speed left-hander?
PV: Yes. Turkey could almost be a standard new Formula One circuit, except for Turn Eight. It is really outstanding. The first time that we went there it was a surprise for most of the drivers. Just that one corner is very demanding physically for both the drivers and the tyres. Because of Turn Eight alone, Bridgestone will bring tyres from the hard side of the range.
Q: What is so challenging about Turn Eight?
PV: Severity of tyre usage is all about friction energy and Turn Eight at Istanbul has the highest friction energy level of any corner throughout the season. In terms of lateral g-force, speed and duration - the length of time the car is actually in the corner, it is really outstanding.
Q: Are there other performance factors to consider?
PV: The rest of the parameters are manageable in a standard window, in terms of brakes, engine cooling etc. Istanbul is a circuit where usually we have seen relatively high downforce working quite well.
Q: How well-suited to the track will Toyotas TF107 be?
PV: Recently we have seen our performance improve in general, especially running the type of downforce package we have had since the French GP at Magny-Cours. Turkey will again be in this window and we will be looking to continue the qualifying form we have shown recently and build on Ralfs strong race result in Hungary.
Q: Would you say that the team is closing the gap to the front-runners?
PV: Since Magny-Cours we have made a step in terms of overall performance and now we have our two drivers very close together. But we still have to score points at the end of the race. Having said that, Ralf did very well in Hungary - it is one thing to have decent performance with the package and another to score points at the end of the race, which we have not been doing enough of. We have had some operational glitches and sometimes reliability problems but we are definitely making progress.
Q: After Turkey, do you head straight for a Monza test?
PV: Yes. We will of course have a very different package for the Italian Grand Prix. At this test we will check it thoroughly, paying particular attention to the brakes, which are critical. Monza is so specific now that it requires a special test. It is the last high-speed circuit left on the calendar.