Q&A with Toyotas Pascal Vasselon 01 Jul 2008
Ahead of this weekends British Grand Prix, Pascal Vasselon, Toyotas senior general manager (chassis), discusses Jarno Trullis podium-winning drive at Magny-Cours and how the team might perform at Silverstone
Q: This is the halfway point of the season, are you happy with the first half?
Pascal Vasselon: Yes, I have to say I am happy with our progress. We are back at the top of the midfield again after the great result in Magny-Cours and actually in the race we were even better than that because we were quicker than the BMWs and able to finish ahead of both McLarens. We have every reason to believe we have made a genuine gain in performance.
Q: How has that improvement been achieved?
PV: We went to Magny-Cours with quite a lot of upgrades on the car as part of our continuing development programme. We had new front and rear wings and also new suspension elements and as a package that worked very well and delivered a good step.
Q: Are you confident you can keep up this pace?
PV: I am confident we have made a genuine step forward and that will be visible at Silverstone as well because the car configuration is very close to Magny-Cours. Of course the other teams are working hard to improve as well and we don't know how much progress they have made at the last test. Again we will have some upgrades coming after they were tested last week so we are optimistic. We feel much stronger on a 'normal' circuit such as Magny-Cours or Silverstone compared to Montreal or Monaco, where we had a hard time.
Q: Can you describe the characteristics of Silverstone?
PV: It is one of the highest speed circuits and a by product of this is that probably it is the most severe on tyres of the season because of the high-speed corners. We will be using the hardest compounds of the Bridgestone Potenza tyres for this reason. It is a medium-high downforce circuit which puts very little stress on the brakes. This is because the average speed is high so you have good cooling and you have few low-speed corners so the braking energy is low.
Q: What has our experience been of the hard compound Bridgestone tyres?
PV: Normally these two compounds don't suffer any major issues. Because they are on the hard side they are stable and consistent throughout the weekend and usually we find these compounds are easier to manage than the two soft compounds. So in general we don't expect any serious issues with the tyres this weekend.
Q: One of the outstanding sections is Becketts, is this a particular challenge in terms of set-up?
PV: Becketts is a very fast complex and it is so quick at the beginning that what matters is not so much grip but the handling of the car. The driver needs to have confidence in his car to achieve the optimum time in this section so the transient response of the car is very important.
Q: Is it fair to say Toyota does not have a strong record at Silverstone?
PV: In terms of points scoring it's true we do not have a fantastic history at Silverstone but in terms of performance we have usually been quite good. For example, last year we were fast at Silverstone and we expected to score strong points but unfortunately we had a problem on Ralf's car which ended his race. I am certain we would have scored points then, and don't forget we actually led our first Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2003 so we have had the performance, if not the results. Now we are looking forward to improving that record by scoring points this weekend.
Q: How much of a difference does it make to test at a track before the Grand Prix?
PV: It makes a big difference to have the opportunity to test at a circuit just before we go there for the race. It means we can go to the race weekend with a well-defined set-up window in which we can work. That is why it was so important that both race drivers had a day testing last week at Silverstone because this is vital preparation which means we can start practice on Friday with a basic set-up already established. From there we are basically refining tyre usage and fine-tuning our set-up.