Q and A with Pascal Vasselon After all is said and done, the Panasonic Toyota Racing team heads to Melbourne Australia for the season opening race that will take place on the Albert Park circuit this coming weekend. Pre-season testing hasn’t been easy for the Cologne based squad, however they are convinced that these issues are now behind them.
Here Pascal Vasselon gives a technical preview of the upcoming season opener….
What are the characteristics of Albert Park? Albert Park means low grip and understeer basically. At least in the last few years where the tire war was going on, the typical characteristics in Melbourne were understeer, graining and generally low grip. It is caused by a combination of two major aspects of the track, the asphalt structure and the lay-out, especially the double right-hander in the last sector which is especially difficult for the front left tire.
It is a particularly difficult track in terms of set-up? Because of those characteristics, in the past it was quite difficult to achieve a perfect set-up. This season is going to be very different simply because one of the very clear character changes of the 2007 tires is they don’t suffer any more from graining. So everything we know about Melbourne from the past probably needs to be reconsidered as we do not expect the 2007 tires to grain at Albert Park.
How has the team prepared for this challenge in Australia? In one sense we will start from a clean sheet in terms of set-up. However, we are not totally starting from scratch because previous year’s experience showed the circuit at Valencia in winter is a decent representation of Melbourne in terms of the issues you face. We went to Valencia in January and tested the same spec of tires we are going to run in Melbourne so that will help us.
How has testing with the 2007-specification Bridgestone tires progressed? We have learnt all we can from tires in winter conditions. We are operating them in the usual winter window but tire issues in winter are different to those we experience later in the season. For this season, to compensate for the familiar winter tire testing issues, we went to Bahrain and this gave us the first flavor of what challenges the tires will give us during the season.
What are the key attributes of the new tires? What we know from these tires is they bring oversteer into the car and if there is a weakness, it comes from the rear.
How has testing progressed this winter for Toyota? Testing has not been without reliability issues but we believe most, if not all, of the reliability issues are under control as we showed with two very positive days testing in Jerez last week. In this area we can say we made proper usage of our testing. Also, we went through a learning phase with these new tires together with our new car. It gave us the opportunity to develop different set-up options which we prepared according to the different conditions we will face during the season.
How competitive do you expect Toyota to be in Melbourne? At this stage, we can predict whatever we want but the only certain prediction is that most people will be surprised in Melbourne. Every season, if you compare February predictions to the results in the first races of the season, you see it is very hard to accurately anticipate based on winter testing. We are looking forward to this season with quite a lot of enthusiasm.
Toyota is supplying engines to Williams this season so how focused is the team on beating Williams? You can talk a lot about Williams but they are just another of our competitors. Clearly, we have looked closely at their performances over the winter but we have studied all our competitors.
In previous years, Toyota has introduced a B-spec car during the season. Is this planned for 2007? At the moment we are not planning a TF107B but that does not mean we will not build one if we see a very good reason. We will have improvements at every race as has become normal in Formula 1 and there are some bigger upgrade packages coming on line during the season.
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