Q and A with STR's Giorgio Ascanelli
Toro Rosso's tech director Giorgio Ascanelli reviews their 2011 campaign and shares his thoughts on the team's prospects in the upcoming British GP...
Q: Five points finishes from eight races, including the last three consecutively. How do you sum up the season so far?
GA: I believe that, in terms of all aspects of what makes up a Formula 1 team, we are at a level that you would expect from the ninth team. However, our avowed target for 2011 is to finish eighth and currently, we are seventh in the Constructors' classification. So we have to be happy with that, even if it is going to be difficult to maintain it for the rest of the season. The fact we are seventh does not mean we are performing better than our planned 'road map' because although we have got plenty of things right, our position also owes something to other teams sometimes getting it wrong.
Q: As a general comment, we seem to race much better than we qualify. Why is that?
GA: The way our race weekends play out, it may look as though on Saturday night we are idiots and then on Sunday night we are geniuses, but this is not a theory I subscribe to! There is a genuine discrepancy between our qualifying and race performance. Part of that is down to technical reasons and there is also the fact that we consciously dedicate more time to preparing for the race than for qualifying. The other factor is that, with no disrespect to our drivers, they are not getting the most out of the car when the tires are at their best for a qualifying lap.
Q: How is the team working operationally in the second year of doing all the design and build in-house, including the task of linking the Bicester wind tunnel with Faenza?
GA: Personally, this is my third experience of producing a car on both sides of the Channel, the first two with Ferrari at a time when technology - internet, computers, a shared data basis and satellite links - was not as advanced as today. Now, this system works much better than in the past and at Toro Rosso, we have learned how to make it work, even if there are the occasional hiccoughs. However, we are relatively new at this and therefore we are still spending time checking that our predictive tools, wind tunnel, CFD etc, are up to the job. We are making good progress on this, but there are still discrepancies between the theoretical tools and what we see on track. For example, in Valencia, we brought a new configuration of the car and after first practice we were quite surprised at the differences between what we had expected from this package and what it actually delivered. We had a very busy Friday analyzing the data, because in cases where one sees a difference, one has to find out if it is down to incorrect measurements or if there are some physical reasons for it. There were actual reasons for it and this led to us being in better shape and I believe that is something that will continue at the next round in Silverstone.
Q: Does that mean we can expect another strong showing at the British Grand Prix?
GA: It's hard to say because, by introducing some significant updates in Valencia, we are probably out of phase with the majority of British teams who will no doubt be having a big push for the race at Silverstone. That had some influence on the fact that Jaime was able to finish so many places higher than he started on Sunday in Valencia. Sébastien's performance was also good, if less apparent, because we have just discovered that he picked up a large piece of debris on his car, which caused significant loss of downforce for half the race. Nevertheless, he still made up four places by the end of the race, running a three stop strategy like the majority of cars, whereas Jaime's result owed something to his two stop strategy.
Q: Silverstone is the first of several fast tracks where aero is very important, coming up in the next part of the season. How will this suit us?
GA: I don't know for sure, but I hope we can perform well. However, we have already played our two major hands in terms of car development while, as I said, I think the English teams will produce a mighty effort for this race and when a man with a pistol meets a man with a rifle, the man with the pistol is a dead man! So we need to be very clever to get the most out of our package.
Q: Will we continue to develop STR6?
GA: We are approaching that time of year when we must start looking to the new car for 2012. However, there are further developments in the pipeline for STR6: there will be some very small things at Silverstone and some of the following races. Apart from that, the Italian Grand Prix will see changes to the car simply because Monza is such a unique circuit that we need to dedicate some attention to it. After that, our focus really has to shift to STR7 or we will not have a car for next year. Currently, we are slightly ahead of our target in terms of our position in the classification. Whether we stay there depends on how well we work and it also depends a bit on luck and how our closest rivals perform and how much of their resources they can continue to devote to their 2011 cars.
Source: Toro Rosso