Q&A with Toyotas Pascal Vasselon 04 Jun 2008
Montreal, like Monaco, presents a unique technical challenge to the Formula One teams. But while the difficulty of Monte Carlo lies in its famous twists and turns, it is the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuves long straights, remorseless kerbs and slow corners that define a cars set up in Canada.
Yet in light of last months rainy Montreal-spec test day at Paul Ricard, the squads have their work cut out if they are to gain ground on their rivals. Here Toyotas senior general manager Pascal Vasselon discusses the teams prospects for the Canadian Grand Prix
Q: How would you describe the demands of the Montreal track on the car?
Pascal Vasselon: It is very specific in many areas and it is far from an average track. It starts with the aero configuration; most of the corners are slow or medium speed, which would require a lot of downforce, but then obviously you would carry too much drag in the long straights so we have to make a compromise. The tyres have a hard time because it is a very low grip circuit and on one hand, you have a very low transversal demand, one of the lowest of the season, but with huge traction severity. So usually front tyres have an easy life in Montreal and the rears have a hard time. Then you have the kerbs because one of the historic characteristics of this track is the very aggressive kerbs. It seems that this season it should be closer to normality because the most aggressive kerbs, especially the one into turn eight, have been resurfaced. So we have an unknown concerning kerbs - it may be that this is no longer such a factor. Finally, for brakes it is simply the most demanding circuit on the calendar in terms of cooling and wear.
Q: Why is brake cooling such an issue in Montreal?
PV: Brake cooling is a specific issue at this track because of the average speed and you can see this if you compare to Monza. In Montreal the braking energy is high but not as high as Monza, yet brake cooling is more of an issue. You have high top speed and heavy braking but so many slow corners that in the end the average speed stays in the mid range compare to other tracks. This is very different to Monza, where you have hard braking but the highest average speed in the season so the cooling is not an issue.
Q: How different is a Montreal-spec car compared to a Monaco-spec car?
PV: For suspension you can start from a Monaco-like set-up and refine it but from an aerodynamic point of view this is absolutely not possible because of the long straights which force you to go to a medium to low downforce level. So aerodynamically we run less downforce compared to Monaco.
Q: Will there be new items on the car for Montreal?
PV: We will have an evolution of the braking system for this race. Obviously braking and braking stability are key performance factors in Montreal so we will have something in this area.
Q: Is it a problem that the Montreal test at Paul Ricard was rained off?
PV: Yes, this was definitely not ideal for us but it was the same for everyone; that is the beauty of our testing agreement. We tend to go all together to the same tracks and together face the same weather issues. Nevertheless, at Paul Ricard we were ready immediately in the morning and we got a couple of runs in full Montreal trim which gave us the opportunity to collect the most important aero data we needed.
Q: What happened in Monaco?
PV: It was a race to forget really. We had a competitive qualifying, a very quick start with both cars and they were both in good positions in the opening laps, seventh and eighth. Then a few unexpected circumstances pushed our cars on to extreme wet tyres - Timo (Glock) broke his front wing in a crash and Jarno (Trulli) had difficulty keeping temperature in the standard wets. This switch to extreme wets was a very good option considering the weather forecast but it went wrong when the expected shower turn into only a few drops.
Q: Do you enjoy Montreal?
PV: With Monaco and Montreal we have two of the most enjoyable races of the season directly after each other. What is fantastic in Montreal is the proximity of a city which welcomes Formula One so warmly. The atmosphere in the city is incredible for the whole week and the fans are so enthusiastic about the Grand Prix; it really makes it a joy to work there.
Q: What are your expectations for the Canadian Grand Prix?
PV: Last year our performance was compromised by an upright issue on the kerbs and then the race circumstances were very chaotic. We expect a much smoother weekend and a good opportunity to have both cars in the points.