Toyota Japanese Grand Prix Technical Preview -- Q+A with Pascal Vasselon Q: How would you describe Fuji Speedway? Pascal Vasselon: It's up to the very highest standard and the lay-out itself retains the character of the original so it doesn't...
Toyota Japanese Grand Prix Technical Preview -- Q+A with Pascal Vasselon
Q: How would you describe Fuji Speedway?
Pascal Vasselon: It's up to the very highest standard and the lay-out itself retains the character of the original so it doesn't look like some of the purpose-built new circuits. It has a long straight and a slow infield. You have a very fast sector and then a slow one so, in terms of car set-up, it drives you in different directions and obviously you have to compromise. We expect a challenging situation because nobody has tested there so we only have our simulations to work with. In terms of speed distribution, with a high-speed start-finish straight followed by a slow, twisty infield it is similar to Indianapolis but when you look at the detail of the track that is as far as the comparison goes.
Q: Will it be like Indy in that higher downforce may be better suited to qualifying and lower downforce to racing?
PV: It's something we are looking at to find the best compromise but, for sure, I don't think it will be low downforce because you will lose too much in the few high speed corners and in the slow infield. I think it will be either medium or medium-high downforce.
Q: Is it a good track to race on?
PV: Definitely, yes. We should see some overtaking moves as a result of the long straight and the tight first corner.
Q: Will it be difficult to stay close to the car in front on this final corner?
PV: It is key to close the gap to the car in front out of the last corner in order to catch a tow and be in a position to pass at the end of the straight. The very slow turns 13 to 16 at the end of sector three, before the straight, will minimize the aerodynamic turbulences and allow a faster car to attack the straight line very close to the car in front.
Q: Will Toyota have any significant car updates?
PV: It will be our last major update of the season. There will be quite a lot of new aerodynamic parts.
Q: As Fuji is Toyota's home track, does the team have an advantage in terms of preparation?
PV: No, because we don't have anything that the other teams don't have. We will certainly have a psychological boost from our Japanese fans and colleagues, but nothing technical. Like all the teams, we have all the relevant details for simulation -- the layout, elevation and track profile. We have anticipated the set-up window in which we will operate.
Q: Many people remember Fuji Speedway for the 1976 world championship decider when Niki Lauda withdrew in pouring rain and James Hunt went on to win the championship. What are your memories?
PV: I remember that and I also remember an outstanding performance in the wet from Kazuyoshi Hoshino in that race, when he ran as high as third. He has always been brilliant in the rain. I know him from Super Touring and GT cars in the 1990s. I heard many times about this 1976 race where he put on a bit of a demonstration.
Q: Do you have a lot of experience of the track?
PV: I have been to Fuji more than 10 times. I think the first time was in 1994 and then once or twice a year with Touring and GT cars. I know the area pretty well and I have seen Mount Fuji several times without clouds, which is a privilege!
Q: A privilege?
PV: Yes, because you can go there many times and never see the top of the mountain. The altitude difference is so high that in many cases you have cloud cover that masks it. You know it's there but you never actually see it. That might well happen when Formula 1 goes there as well, but I hope not - when you see it, it's something special.