Pascal Vasselon, Toyota's senior general chassis manager, discusses the new TF107
Q: What were the main lessons you learned from 2006?
Pascal Vasselon: It was a very busy season, and what we learned was that improving performance is not sufficient. We learned that reliability is essential. The pattern of the season was totally different compared to 2005. We started that season in good shape in terms of performance, and then by the end of the season it was getting a little harder. In 2006 we started the season in the midfield, and by the end we were close to the top in terms of performance. But this progress of performance through the season was perhaps not visible, that's what we have to accept. The main reason for that was we were not able to finish as many of the races as we wanted to, because of various reliability issues.
Q: What happened in terms of reliability in 2006?
PV: We did not find a global root cause. That would have been too easy! As usual when issues are not caused by basic mistakes, it's a combination of factors. In terms of packaging for example we pushed harder to develop performance and the packaging of the car was tighter and tighter. It has favoured the occurrence of some of our reliability issues. In other cases we paid for innovative concepts which by nature cannot be immediately under total control. All these things together mean that we took more risks than the year before in terms of reliability.
Q: What's the thinking behind the new car?
PV: The dominant factors don't really change from year to year -- the physics stay the same! We are still optimising the two major performance factors, aerodynamics and tyres. With the tyres, of course some parameters have changed. Obviously we won't develop the tyres any more, but it does not mean that the tyre will not be controlling the development of the car, simply because whatever the characteristics of the tyre, it will still be about getting the best from them. And of course continuous aerodynamic development is the other major performance factor that we've taken into account for the TF107.
Q: What are the most significant changes compared with last year?
PV: We have several major changes in terms of packaging. The engine has moved forward, the gearbox has moved forward and the front of the monocoque is higher. Most of these changes I would say are driven by the aero development of the car. The car allows us to introduce new suspension systems as well, which concept will be developed in several steps.
Q: How different is the TF107 to its predecessor?
PV: The TF107 is a total change, we have almost no parts which will fit from the TF106 or TF106B. The fact that we had a B car for Monaco did not impact at all the ambition of the development of the TF107, not at all. Despite the fact that we were busy with the TF106B we started the concept of the TF107 in January 2006. It's true that we went into a very different scheduling of our evolution last year, but it was really driven by a major decision -- the crossover point was to bring the TF105B in the middle of 2005, that's what created the cycle 105B/106/106B.
Q: Have you had to deal with stricter FIA crash tests?
PV: The testing conditions for the front and rear crash have changed. It's not a major thing, just something which our design group had to take into account, but these evolutions are almost invisible. Except that the basic shape of the rear crash area is imposed, but it's imposed on all the teams, so all teams will have lost a little bit of performance with that.
Q: What sort of upgrades do you have planned?
PV: We have a roll-out version, we will have a completely new aero package for the first race, and then a second major upgrade coming quite early in the season, just after the flyaway races. Then we will of course develop race specific packages, high downforce, low to mid downforce, and the Monza package. Apart from these major milestones, the norm will be to bring upgrades to every single race.
Q: How much help can you draw on from Toyota in Japan?
PV: The huge capacity of TMC is something we try really hard to get the best from. Of course we cannot ask our colleagues in Japan to develop the car set-up or other short term oriented items which require on site reactivity. But more and more we involve them in fundamental studies like research on materials and of course simulation. It's especially important for CFD, and at the moment we are reviewing our collaboration on this side to make sure that we use that computing power available. We have people in Japan working full time, and we have weekly video conferences to co-ordinate these activities, so it's something we take very seriously.