Q and A with Pascal Vasselon Toyota’s technical director, Pascal Vasselon, has previewed the upcoming Chinese Grand Prix that will take place here at the Shanghai International circuit this coming weekend, the penultimate round of the 2007 Formula One world championship.
What is the major consideration when preparing for Shanghai?
On our previous visits to Shanghai , which started in 2004, we found that the track generates a lot of understeer and consequently a lot of wear to the left front tire, so one of the challenges was always to control graining. This season we go there with the two hardest compounds in the Bridgestone range, with graining resistance that is quite high, so we should have an easier weekend in that sense because the tire choice should make that reasonably easy to manage.
Why was that such an issue at Shanghai?
When we have been there with optimal tires in terms of grip on the very smooth asphalt, you ended up with not enough graining resistance and too much understeer because of the two long corners that generate the high loads on the left front.
Are there any other considerations driven by the track lay-out?
Shanghai has quite a special lay-out with interesting implications in terms of set-up. You have two major straights at Shanghai and in fact the back one is quite long, but we have seen interesting situations where the balance in Turn 13, the very long right-hander, was so important in this last sector dominated by straight lines that we were able to have a good level of speed and strong sector times even with relatively high downforce. It was all about the balance out of this long corner and that was critical for the average straight-line speed. I think it was very specific to the graining situation but we would still expect that in Shanghai this year we will go on the high side for downforce.
What about other parameters – is it tough on brakes, for instance?
I would say that Shanghai is average severity as far as the other parameters – brake wear, demands on the engine etc - are concerned.
Is it a good track to race on?
I think the lay-out is special and quite unique so it is interesting in itself. However, overtaking is not that easy. There is not a place that really stands out as presenting a big opportunity. It’s possible under braking at the end of the back straight into Turn 14 maybe, but it’s quite difficult to stay behind a car in Turn 13, so you have to work pretty hard to pull off a move.
Will there be any logistical problems racing there so soon after Fuji Speedway?
When we first went to Shanghai I think everyone was concerned about the logistics but, maybe as a consequence, everyone did a really good job of the preparation and everything went smoothly. Even coming straight from Japan we don’t have any issues that are causing undue concern.
The cars, presumably, will be in the same specification as at Fuji?
Yes, we will effectively continue with the same package. There will be one or two minor aerodynamic upgrades for Brazil but principally we will have the same package for the remainder of the season. The weather conditions in Japan made it hard to evaluate our Fuji package but we know from testing that it has brought a step forward so we hope to show that in China . We are hopeful as always of a strong result.