Toyotas Pascal Vasselon on Interlagos set-up 29 Oct 2008
Cramped pit buildings, a bumpy track surface and blistering tyres - Toyotas general manager (chassis), Pascal Vasselon, is no stranger to the challenging characteristics of Sao Paulos Interlagos circuit. Here he describes its unique appeal and reveals how he thinks the TF108 will perform in Brazil
Q: Is it still true that Interlagos is extremely bumpy?
Pascal Vasselon: We have gone through a long history of several resurfacings there and somehow the bumps always seemed to survive, or move because the ground is damp. But last year they seemed to resurface it much more effectively and it was a lot better compared to 2006.
Q: How do you see the race for the TF108?
PV: From our side we always perform well there, so we go to the Brazilian Grand Prix with high expectations. We are really looking forward to this race. At times this season we have found cooler track temperatures have not suited the TF108 but in Brazil the temperature is normally quite high so that should work in our favour. Our car has been competitive at almost every circuit and we expect to be strong again at Interlagos. Jarno (Trulli) always performs very well there and we expect him to do so again. Timo (Glock) has some F1 experience at Interlagos and we have seen it takes him no time at all to get used to the TF108 on any given track.
Q: What is the key to a being quick at Interlagos?
PV: You have the long uphill drag from the final left-hander, all the way past the pits, so power is important, but probably more significant are the three or four very long coupled traction events, so the way you manage the car balance and the car sliding is very important. What is really crucial at Interlagos is tyres. Last year Bridgestone had been aggressive in bringing the soft and super-soft tyres, which meant blistering was a big issue. But this time we have soft and medium compounds which should be much better suited. That doesn't mean to say the tyres aren't challenging because you will probably see teams oscillating between warm-up issues with the medium compound tyres and blistering with the soft options. It will not be straightforward and there will be some hard work to do. Aside from that, Interlagos is very light on brakes and it is medium-low downforce.
Q: Why does overtaking feature more in Brazil than at many other tracks?
PV: It is definitely one of the places where you can pass, although it's still not easy. I think everyone well remembers the move by Juan Pablo Montoya on Michael Schumacher in 2001 following the safety car restart; it was just unbelievable. You have a slow corner on to a long straight into a heavy braking area and a tight corner which gives drivers a chance to pass.
Q: What do you make of the facilities?
PV: The pit buildings are a bit cramped and we really have to think hard about the quantity of spare parts and material that we take to Interlagos because we don't have enough room. As a venue it is not as luxurious as some of the newer venues we go to, but that's inevitable and I have to say I can't help but like the event. We have seen fantastic new facilities built in places such as Bahrain, Istanbul, Shanghai and then next year in Abu Dhabi so perhaps the contrast is more obvious now. Interlagos is one of those places where the contrasts of life are most visible. But despite all that, Interlagos has real atmosphere; the crowd is very enthusiastic. It is going to be especially so this time with Felipe Massa still in with a chance of winning the championship.
Q: What gives it that special appeal?
PV: The Brazilians love their motorsport and they love their heroes. In the last 30 years or so they have won multiple championships with names like Fittipaldi, Piquet and Senna. In Brazil the average number of fans just seems higher than everywhere else and they have true passion.