Comments from Toyota technical directors Mike Gascoyne (chassis) and Luca Marmorini (engine) ahead of the Australian Grand Prix Mike Gascoyne Q: Mike, what has the testing programme been since the launch of the TF105 in Barcelona in ...
Comments from Toyota technical directors Mike Gascoyne (chassis) and Luca Marmorini (engine) ahead of the Australian Grand Prix
Q: Mike, what has the testing programme been since the launch of the TF105 in Barcelona in January?
MG: We have spent our time in testing concentrating on setting up the TF105 and working on long runs to learn how well we have coped with the new technical regulations in terms of the reduced downforce levels caused by the aerodynamic regulations for 2005. Both race drivers Jarno and Ralf are starting their first full season with Toyota this season, so we have also used testing as an opportunity to gel as a team. Together, along with our test drivers Olivier and Ricardo, we have also been developing the engine and working closely with Michelin on evaluating their tyres. All in all, it has been a very busy period for us, not only in the build-up to Australia, but also because we are abiding by a thirty-day limit in testing during the course of the season. That aspect has made pre-season work doubly important.
Q: Testing times have been less than scintillating - are you concerned?
MG: I am not and never have been concerned by lap times from test sessions. In my opinion, people tend to read far too much into testing times, which gives an unrepresentative picture of team performance. Each team has its own bespoke testing programme and it serves no good to be tempted to lower the fuel load for a quick test lap. We have been focussed on long runs to evaluate our performance and a clearer indication of our true competitiveness will only be seen in Melbourne. I stick to my firm belief that Toyota will enjoy a successful season in 2005.
Q: Why did the team introduce such a revised aerodynamic package so soon after the launch?
MG: The official launch of the TF105 in January took place comparatively early and was intended to give us a head start with development of the car. We were able to hit the ground running in Jerez at the start of January and begin our work in earnest. We always planned to introduce an extensively upgraded aerodynamic package for Melbourne and that tested for the first time in Barcelona in the middle of February. We did not expect to draw any concrete conclusions from that test in terms of lap time because of the nature of the recently resurfaced Barcelona track, so we treated the session more like a three-day shakedown of the new package. That said, both drivers responded extremely positively and noticed an immediate improvement in the car.
Q: In what ways do you think the revised aero package will reap rewards?
MG: Aerodynamic regulations have reduced downforce levels by 25%, so our competitiveness will be a result of work carried out in the windtunnel, mainly. The aero improvements will not stop here, though, as we have already plans to introduce a new front wing in Malaysia and continuous development thereafter. Our approach is far more aggressive than it ever has been and I think it has to be in order to propel Toyota up the grid during 2005.
Q: What new parts will be introduced on the TF105 in Australia?
MG: The bulk of the TF105 that will race in Melbourne was seen on the package that ran in Barcelona a few weeks back, but we do have some more parts coming for Australia, including a new rear wing.
Q: What are the technical characteristics of the Albert Park track?
MG: Melbourne is not a regular race track and is set up especially for the Formula 1 race weekend. So firstly, the circuit conditions change a lot over the weekend. On the opening day, it is usually very dusty after all the hard work that has gone into getting the track ready. The track does rubber in over the three days of the event, but we race on very different track conditions to early in the weekend. Unlike a lot of temporary circuits, Albert Park has a good mix of slow, medium and fast corners, but most teams and cars will be running close to their respective top levels of downforce. Although the new rules have reduced downforce levels, we have all been working hard in testing to overcome this deficit. It would not surprise me if some cars have even regained the lost downforce by Melbourne.
Q: What areas of the car are put under most stress during the Australian GP weekend?
MG: Albert Park is moderately hard on the brakes and temperatures can be quite warm, so for the first race of the season, we have to pay close attention to the cooling package - especially with Parc Ferme before the Sunday morning qualifying and afternoon race.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for Toyota heading into the Australian GP?
MG: All teams will have to deal with many unknown factors during the Australian GP weekend, as a result of the revised technical and sporting regulations. We have had to develop an engine to last two race weekends, tyres to last a complete race distance, and we have a new qualifying format. This combined with the aero restrictions for 2005 will make Australia a particularly challenging weekend for everyone.
Q: Finally, how do you expect Panasonic Toyota Racing to perform in Melbourne?
MG: I think we have an exceptional reliability record from pre-season testing, so I am confident that we will be okay on that front. Performance-wise, it is almost impossible to draw conclusions and we will have to wait and see come Melbourne where we stand in relation to our rivals.
Q: Luca, how has the Toyota engine department tackled the new "one engine, two race weekend" rule?
LM: We have been working on the design of our RVX-05 engine since the end of 2003, but more intensively since the inaugural tests with the new unit in September 2004. At that time, the engine was more of a hybrid version, utilising the existing fixation points in the TF104B car. Although the engine was almost in its final configuration, we have only really been able to fine-tune the RVX-05 since January, when it was mounted on to the TF105 with new fixation points. The design concept was an extension of what we had in place when we had to develop an engine to last for one race weekend in 2004. To elongate the life of the engine to race weekends, we had to adapt the RVX-04 to this new ruling, by putting each and every component of the engine through rigorous reliability checks at our factory in Cologne.
Q: What simulation techniques have been used in developing the RVX-05?
LM: We have made full us of our in-house research and development facilities and transient dynos to develop the RVX-05. Since the first moment when we started to extend the reliability of the engine components, we have always been getting closer and closer to a race weekend simulation. On the track, we have been more aggressive in our approach in order to pre-empt any potential problems. What is missing though is the unpredictable nature of racing. To simulate an engine to run over two race weekends has been even harder because this unpredictability is greater still. We do not do long runs with the engine for each individual track. Instead, we use the dynos to simulate running at tracks that place greater stress on the engine, like the old Hockenheimring or Spa, to gather more representative data. Our homologation process and approach remains the same, but the specific details become more refined to track usage.
Q: What are the differences between in-house tests on the dyno, on-track running at tests and actual racing?
LM: There are a lot of parts that can be fully tested and homologated in the dyno without even being run in the car at a track, internal reciprocating parts for example. However parts like the exhaust undergo varying stresses at the race track, so it requires a more detailed testing procedure. Gear-shifting is also a fantastic tool, once it is programmed in the dyno, but a driver shifts gears in a less rigid way in race conditions, so we have to take that into consideration as well.
Q: What problems have you encountered during this process?
LM: As expected, we found some problems in the first runs with the TF105, which is not a reflection on the car, but typical teething problems that we face every time a new engine is run for the first time -- unexpected vibration levels, for example. These issues are relatively straight-forward to overcome, so we have been predominantly focussed on solving the more terminal reliability problems that will actually stop us in race conditions. Putting mileage on the unit has been crucial to our development and I have been encouraged by how many kilometres we have been able to complete since January.
Q: Can you tell us about any of the bigger problems that you have faced?
LM: In the TF105, we are using a different shape of exhaust, so we initially experienced some difficulties with exhaust tuning. We have also seen reliability issues with other parts, related to the quality of the parts produced. I am pleased to see that we have reacted quickly and efficiently to these challenges and we head to Melbourne with confidence high.
Q: Looking to Australia, what effects does the Albert Park circuit have on the engine?
LM: The Australian Grand Prix is the first race in which we run in warmer conditions. Even though we test in Spain in the run-up to the race, it is still not as warm as Melbourne, and nowhere near the heat that we have in Malaysia. The opening race of the season is always a lottery, to be honest, but I feel that we have done all we can as a team to put ourselves in the best shape possible. Aside from the engine, we will also only see how the weather affects tyre degradation levels, which -- with the introduction of the one tyre per race rule for 2005 -- will be make or break for any team's performance in the race this season. We have tried to cover all angles when dealing with engine preparations for Australia, but we will only see the fruits of our labours in Melbourne.
Q: How demanding is the Albert Park track?
LM: Actually, Albert Park is not an especially tough track, but it is the first track we race it in the season and that is what makes is demanding. Only after the Australian Grand Prix will we know in which direction we are heading, whether we have got it right and in what areas we still need to improve. As a track, it is intermediate in terms of engine stress levels and approximately 60% of the lap is driven at full throttle. But it is the uncertainty surrounding all teams' performances that make the race unique.
Q: What are the plans for developing the engine throughout the season?
LM: With the new rules, we are not able to change engine between Australia and Malaysia unless there is a failure -- and we are certainly not integrating that into our development plan! Usually, for the first three overseas races, we collect as much information about the engine as we can to see if everything works well. Only once we are confident with the reliability will we think about bringing in performance upgrades. We planned to introduce a new spec engine in time for the start of the European season, which in terms of engines and rules, means the fifth race of the year in Barcelona.
Q: At what point of the season will Toyota turn its attention from engine reliability to performance?
LM: We will never compromise reliability for performance, so developments during the year have to take both parameters into account. It is more difficult to gain horsepower with the technical limitations, so this has been a real challenge for us. We already have several development steps in our pockets for the season, but we have to assess the situation after the first four races of the year. I am confident in that respect, but reliability is and will continue to be the decisive factor -- you can't score points if you don't finish the race.
Q: What are your hopes for Australia?
LM: My personal hopes as Technical Director Engine extend to the end of the race in Malaysia, where I sincerely hope we finish the Malaysian Grand Prix with the same two engines with which we race in Melbourne -- and with some championship points as a reward.