Pre-Singapore Q&A with Toyotas Pascal Vasselon 23 Sep 2008
Recently Toyota have struggled to maintain their form at low-downforce tracks, but with Singapores new street circuit expected to be at the high-downforce end of the spectrum, the Japanese team are confident they can regain their championship footing this weekend. Senior general manager (chasssis), Pascal Vasselon, reveals their preparations for Formula One's first-ever night event
Q: How do you deal with preparing to race at a new venue?
Pascal Vasselon: For us, most of the Singapore preparation is business as usual. We have experienced several new venues since 2004 and generally everything goes smoothly. We are used to handling the challenge of a new track so that doesn't worry us. We have had a successful week end in Valencia three weeks ago for the first time there and for Singapore we will be taking the same approach. Obviously we have studied the lay-out in Singapore and we have found some similarities to other tracks which leads us to conclude it will be a high-downforce circuit so we know which direction to go in terms of aerodynamic set-up. One of the other things we looked at very early was braking severity - this is very important because if you have to make changes it takes time. There is no doubt that Singapore will be very demanding on brakes and we expect them to be working at very high temperatures.
Q: Does racing at night complicate things?
PV: We have prepared for that. Our team probably has a slight advantage in that quite a lot of team members have been to Le Mans so we have quite a good idea about night racing and what is required just to avoid mistakes, as well as considering things like dashboard lighting and handling the pit stops. I am excited by racing at night and this will be a highlight for me.
Q: Will the different time zone make fatigue an issue?
PV: We are aiming to keep the team schedule more or less within a European time zone in order to avoid excessive fatigue. We will try as much as possible to avoid a double time change, otherwise you would be trying to adapt to Singapore time and then changing again to adapt to working through the night from Friday onwards - that would be tough physically. Our logistics team has spent a lot of time planning this event and I am confident we will get through it with minimum disruption. We certainly don't underestimate how important it will be to have people in good shape and with normal sleeping times.
Q: What about the possibility of rain?
PV: On each day we believe there will be a reasonable chance of rain, so it is a very realistic possibility that the drivers will have to cope with night time driving and wet weather conditions. In this season in that part of the world the rain could be very heavy. One of the unknowns is how the quality of light from the lighting system might be affected by rain drops and how good visibility will be. All things considered, I doubt it will be darker than it was for Friday morning practice at Monza!
Q: So, potentially more wet weather concerns for the drivers after Monza?
PV: Monza is a bit of a special case with low downforce and ultra high speeds. I don't know many drivers who like the idea of Monza in the rain. The spray can hang between the trees and they just don't see. Singapore will not be the same challenge but for sure it will still be difficult to keep the car on the track and avoid the barriers. In terms of speeds and car drivability it should be one step easier than Monza.
Q: What information do you have regarding the track surface and tyres?
PV: We have the track profile in terms of bumps and there is nothing really unusual. Bridgestone have informed us about the roughness and as in Monaco and Montreal we will be using Bridgestone's super soft and soft Potenza tyres. However, whereas Montreal and Monaco have very smooth surfaces which can create problems in terms of tyre warm-up and grip, we expect Singapore to be more normal because it is more aggressive on the compounds.
Q: Will the high-downforce Singapore track play to the strengths of the TF108?
PV: Recently we have shown weaknesses only in the very low range of downforce. It's not entirely clear where that comes from but we expect Singapore to be in a very good range for us. We will have one or two small tweaks but no substantial car changes and I think everyone is very much looking forward to the race.