Q&A with Toyotas Pascal Vasselon 15 Jul 2008
Although Toyota showed potential during testing at Silverstone before the British Grand Prix, the team struggled for pace in qualifying and were left disappointed by their eventual race result. Ahead of this weekends race at Hockenheim, Pascal Vasselon, the Japanese squad's senior general manager (chassis), reveals his expectations
Q: Before looking ahead to Hockenheim, can you review a very tricky British Grand Prix?
Pascal Vasselon: We went to the British Grand Prix with high expectations because of the performance step seen at Magny-Cours and then we had a very strong pre-race test at Silverstone. We had a couple of technical issues on Friday but we were confident that we were in good shape. It was a surprise to us not to get a car through to Q3 for only the second time this season and the reasons for that are not totally clear. It's difficult to understand because Jarno (Trulli) also showed eventually the expected good performance level in the race - at times he was the quickest car on the track - so we are viewing our qualifying performance as something of an anomaly. It was pleasing to score points considering our starting position, especially as this moved us into fourth place in the constructors' championship, but the only slight regret is that we did not achieve a better result, which was certainly possible.
Q: What are the challenges of Hockenheim, a home race for the team?
PV: It will be the first time that we have been to Hockenheim with the current tyres. Bridgestone's choice of the two hardest compounds in the range is conservative because Hockenheim is a medium severity track, a little like Magny-Cours. On the hardest spec tyre we may experience a few issues with warm-up but we will prepare for that with out lap management and some mechanical modifications.
Q: What are the circuit's major characteristics?
PV: It is very different since the change from the old layout, which was very fast and demanded very low downforce. The new circuit is more normal - average in terms of its characteristics. The braking energy is in the middle of the range and the downforce level is now medium to medium-high. What is normally above average is the temperature and that is what is responsible for the tyre blistering that we have sometimes seen. The ambient and track temperatures are often extremely high and I'd say that is the only real outstanding characteristic.
Q: What are you expecting from the TF108 performance-wise?
PV: We are expecting a level of performance more in keeping with our display at Magny-Cours than Silverstone qualifying. That means we are hoping to be near the front again. Actually, Magny-Cours and Hockenheim are now very similar in terms of car configuration so we are expecting to go well.
Q: Will you have any new parts on the car?
PV: We will have another new package of aerodynamic modifications which we finalised after last week's test at Hockenheim. We had a successful test and with no mechanical problems we were able to do a lot of laps and make a good start to our preparations for this weekend's race. We evaluated the two tyre specs and different downforce levels, as well as looking at some aerodynamic and mechanical options.
Q: What is your half-term assessment of the season?
PV: I think we can be reasonably happy about the first half of the year. We have achieved some of our objectives, like a podium on merit, and Jarno has produced some really spirited drives. Timo (Glock) has settled into the team very well and is learning all the time. It is our goal to finish fourth in the constructors' championship and that is where we are at the moment. It is hard to challenge Ferrari, McLaren and BMW Sauber but we are currently at the head of the midfield, one point clear of Red Bull. That's good, but we don't underestimate the competitiveness of the fight. Red Bull started on the front row at Silverstone and even if that was a little artificial because of fuel loads, it was still a very strong performance. We know that we are going to face some stiff battles between now and November but that's what Formula One is all about. We will do everything we can to maintain our position, starting at Hockenheim. There is a good atmosphere in the team at the moment and Hockenheim, just over two hours away, is a good opportunity for many of the team members who wouldn't normally be at the track to get close to the action. We'll be doing our best to give them something more to cheer.