Toyota's chief race engineer Dieter Gass looks ahead to the Canadian and US Grands Prix Q: Dieter, what are the technical characteristics of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve? Dieter Gass: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a medium-low downforce circuit...
Toyota's chief race engineer Dieter Gass looks ahead to the Canadian and US Grands Prix
Q: Dieter, what are the technical characteristics of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve?
Dieter Gass: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a medium-low downforce circuit with a reasonable high top speed over the lap. The car needs to have very good traction and a good change of direction to cope with the heavy braking corners and the necessity to be quick on the throttle and up to speed along the straights. We will need to give Jarno and Ralf a precise car, which means finding the right compromise on the mechanical set-up.
Q: What are the critical areas of car performance in Canada?
DG: The circuit's characteristics make it quite hard on the rear tyres, so we will be looking to make good use of Ricardo in the third car for our Friday tyre evaluation. It is one of the most demanding circuits on the brakes. In fact, it is second only to Bahrain for stress on the brakes. We performed well in Bahrain earlier in the year and did not experience any braking difficulties, so I do not expect too much of a struggle in Canada. The braking energy over a lap is close to that in Bahrain, so we should see similar wear figures and temperatures.
Q: Are there any good overtaking opportunities?
DG: Canada is one of the better circuits for overtaking. The hairpin is a slow first-gear corner just prior to the start-finish line, which is one of the track's unique characteristics and I think we should see some good passing manoeuvres there.
Q: Ralf is going out 2nd in the all-important qualifying session in Canada. How detrimental will that be to his weekend?
DG: Ralf's retirement at the Nürburgring means he will be the second car out in the new single qualifying session and that is definitely going to put him at a disadvantage. The Montreal track is partly a street circuit, so it is often dusty at the start of the weekend and at the beginning of each session. There is unfortunately nothing we can do to help the problem. Having one car go out before us will make a small difference, but nowhere near enough, as it normally requires five or more cars to go out before the track rubbers in significantly enough to improve the lap time.
Q: What can Panasonic Toyota Racing realistically expect to achieve in Montreal?
DG: After a run of medium-high downforce circuits, we will run with a different aero configuration in Montreal, so all the cars will be quite mixed up again. Traditionally we have not performed too badly in Canada and I personally see no reason why we cannot do well this year. I am optimistic of another strong result.
Q: Indianapolis comes just a few days after Montreal. How do the two tracks differ?
DG: Indianapolis, like Montreal is a medium-low downforce circuit, but it is even a bit lower. Indy reminds me a bit of the old Hockenheimring with its ultra-long, ultra-fast straight followed by a tight, slow infield section. We need to set the cars up to attain a good top speed down the straight into the first corner, as well as having good traction out of the slower corners.
Q: How do you achieve this aero compromise?
DG: Basically, we run a lot of simulations back in the factory to see in which direction to go, but also at the race track we have to carefully monitor the top speeds of our competitors. One particular aspect of Indy is that the lap time actually stays consistent whether you run with higher or lower downforce settings. The time you gain in one section will be lost in the other and vice versa. For the ultimate lap time, you can run with more downforce, but this will be to your detriment in the race because a good top speed down the 24-second full-throttle banked start-finish straight will enable the driver to overtake heading into the first corner.
Q: What are your targets for Indy weekend, almost half-distance through the demanding 19-race 2005 calendar?
DG: I think the season so far has shown that anything is possible during the race weekend. Reliability is a very important factor to picking up points, more so than in previous years. I do not think we have the performance in the car to win a race yet -- not without a bit of luck - but I think we are at a stage where we can go into each race weekend with the podium as a realistic target. We did it in Malaysia, Bahrain and Spain and could have done so in Monaco and Nürburgring, so a trip to the podium must be at the forefront of our minds for both Canada and Indianapolis.