With preparations for the 2005 world championship well underway at various test locations around Europe, Technical Director Chassis of Panasonic Toyota Racing, Mike Gascoyne, talks about what the team hopes to achieve from the winter test...
With preparations for the 2005 world championship well underway at various test locations around Europe, Technical Director Chassis of Panasonic Toyota Racing, Mike Gascoyne, talks about what the team hopes to achieve from the winter test programme. The Englishman also discusses the 2005 Toyota driver line-up, changes to the technical regulations and the development of the new TF105 race car.
Q: What is Panasonic Toyota Racing's winter testing programme?
Mike Gascoyne: The period in the run-up to the new season will be hectic for all teams, but even more so for Toyota because we have obviously got two new drivers -- Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli. The first test in Barcelona was mainly about getting both Ralf and Jarno fully settled into the team. Of course, we were able to bring Jarno into the race team for the Japanese and Brazilian Grands Prix, and it was beneficial to both parties for him to start work earlier than expected. I am sure that Ralf will get settled in just as quickly.
Q: Does having two new race drivers affect the team's approach for 2005?
MG: Having the new drivers will not particularly affect the way we work. We have got a lot of Michelin tyre testing to do because of the change in the tyre regulations which requires us to run on the same tyres for a whole race, so we are running revised casings in preparation for next year.
We also have a lot of engine mileage to do -- with the increased mileage required over two race weekends, we need to make sure next year's engine is reliable. So Olivier (Panis) has also been testing at Paul Ricard, putting a lot of miles on the engine and working on next year's electronics. We won't be running a hybrid car, so the new rear end will run for the first time when we run the new car.
Q: When can we expect to see the new TF105?
MG: The TF105 is being finished at the moment, and it should be ready before Christmas. That means that we will be available to run it as soon as the Christmas and New Year test ban has been lifted in January. Although we are introducing the TF105 comparatively early, there will be significant development on it before the first race of the season.
We will have a totally new aerodynamic package in Melbourne, but we want to run the new car as soon as possible in order to get it reliable for the Australian Grand Prix. There is a lot of work to be done on the new car, but we will also be running the TF104B for a lot of the tyre work in the run-up to the opening race.
Q: Why did Panasonic Toyota Racing opt for Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher?
MG: Both Ralf and Jarno are proven race winners and I think they are both very quick. Jarno is exceptional over one lap, but in his career he has struggled for consistency in races. However, in the first half of 2004 he did an excellent job before relationships deteriorated for him at Renault. For his first win at Monaco, he had pole, was quickest in practically every session and led every lap of the race. That is quite an achievement!
Q: What about Ralf?
MG: Ralf is also very quick and he's won several races in his career. Again, there is perhaps some evidence of a lack of consistency down the years. On some weekends he seems to dominate his team-mate and is just unbelievable. At some of the races he has won in the past he has seemed to dominate the entire weekend, but at other times he seems not to be at that level.
So I think both Ralf and Jarno are drivers who need to be in the right frame of mind to perform consistently, and a lot of that has to do with having the right team and the right environment around them. We have got to make sure that we give them a car with which they can do their best, and that we create the environment where they can do that consistently.
Q: What feedback are you expecting from Jarno and Ralf?
MG: Obviously both Jarno and Ralf can compare the strengths and weaknesses of our package with the cars they've driven in the past. We pretty much know where our car is weak in terms of its aerodynamics, but the drivers can also give input into that. They can also really help the motivation of the whole team in Cologne. At the race track, they need to work professionally with the engineers and mechanics to make sure we get the best not just out of the car but out of the whole operation over a race or test.
Q: With four drivers on board who raced in 2004, Toyota has an impressive driver line-up overall. How crucial is that to next year?
MG: The fact that Jarno and Ralf are supported by two highly experienced guys like Olivier and Ricardo (Zonta) is extremely important. With Olivier staying on as test and reserve driver and Ricardo as the driver of the third car at grands prix, I think Panasonic Toyota Racing has the most experienced line-up of all the teams.
It means we've got two race drivers absolutely at the top of their game, proven race winners, and we have got unparalleled experience in the test drivers with Olivier and Ricardo. That's a pretty impressive line-up, especially for a team that finished eighth in the championship, and it should give the whole team a lot of confidence.
Q: The FIA has introduced a number of rule changes for the 2005 season. How have they affected the design of the TF105?
MG: There are changes in each of the key technical areas for next season, aimed at reducing the performance of F1 cars. On the chassis side, the changes are mostly aerodynamic. We have to raise the front wing, move the rear wing forwards and limit the maximum height of the diffuser - all of which means we should lose a reasonable amount of downforce without losing any drag. On the initial running we lost 25 percent of the car's downforce, but obviously we're working in the wind tunnel to gain as much of that back as possible.
Q: To what extent did the late confirmation of 2005 regulations affect the development of the TF105?
MG: To be honest, the late implementation of technical changes for 2005 has not been too much of a hindrance to us. The FIA put forward some suggestions and there was a process we had to go through in order for them to impose them. But really from August we were assuming that the regulations we were working to were accurate, and that's what actually happened.
The changes probably affected us more in terms of this past season's car, rather than the TF105. When we introduced the TF104B we aimed to keep working on that until the end of the year, but because of the rule change we chose not to, and we purely concentrated on the TF105. That meant we didn't really get significant development on the 104B, so certainly that hurt us toward the end of last year. But that decision will help us for next year.