Luca Marmorini, Technical Director Engine at Panasonic Toyota Racing, looks ahead to the inaugural grand prix in the Kingdom of Bahrain and gives his views on the season so far. Q: Luca, what are your thoughts on the F1 race in ...
Luca Marmorini, Technical Director Engine at Panasonic Toyota Racing, looks ahead to the inaugural grand prix in the Kingdom of Bahrain and gives his views on the season so far.
Q: Luca, what are your thoughts on the F1 race in Bahrain?
"I think, alongside the race in China later this season, the Grand Prix of Bahrain is a great opportunity for F1 and undoubtedly offers all teams and drivers one of the biggest challenges of the year. For possibly the first time, Toyota can enter the weekend in the same situation as everyone else. We have no data from the track at all and we have to find other ways in which to prepare ourselves as well as possible before we can hit the track on Friday morning."
Q: From the engine point of view, how has Toyota prepared for Bahrain?
"Theoretically, we can simulate any track back at the factory in Cologne, even if we haven't been there and that is precisely what we have tried to do for Bahrain. We use vehicle simulation tools, which can already give a reasonably accurate indication of how the engine will be react at any circuit, for example in terms of revs, wide open throttle load, etc. How the driver will use the engine during the weekend is something we cannot predict."
"We also have environmental uncertainties, which in Bahrain will be more widespread than at other track; we have the possibility of a wide range of ambient and track temperatures, as well as the likelihood of sand blowing onto the track. We are doing our best to predict the worst scenario, but in my experience, our prediction is never 100% accurate. Having said that, I believe we will have collected enough data to be ready to get started promptly on Friday morning."
Q: What simulation processes take place in the factory?
"Normally, if you have a plan for a track, you are able to simulate what a car would do. This takes into account an educated guess of the set-up of the car from our race engineers. We can also simulate a bit with the tyres, and based on this, you can apply a cycle on the transient engine dyno to see how the engine reacts."
"We actually don't have to simulate each race track to test reliability because we have certain circuits - like the old Hockenheimring - which are particularly aggressive on the engine, so we prefer to do general reliability tests based on what we already know. Of course, we have to be ready for any driveability problems that may occur at the last minute and be prepared to support the team on any concerns that arise during the race weekend at any point around the track."
Q: Toyota has had to learn most F1 tracks from scratch in recent years. Do you think that Toyota will gain an advantage over its rivals in Bahrain this weekend?
"I would like to think that because Toyota has had to learn all F1 tracks in the last few years, we could have a practical advantage in terms of learning the track quickly. However, we should never forget that experience counts for a lot when you have to adapt to new conditions, so the more experienced teams may also gain an advantage in this way."
Q: Will Ricardo Zonta's role as Third Driver be even more crucial in Bahrain?
"I think that Ricardo's job is always very important. We are able to let him run freely in very similar conditions to those we need to run in the race. More importantly, we can conserve the engine life or car reliability on both race cars by focussing on Ricardo's car for the race configuration."
"Obviously, having the third car is beneficial for our Michelin tyre selection, but in Bahrain we will also be able to use Ricardo to check everything is working on the engine side, to spot any problems early in the weekend and to rectify anything before qualifying. There is always something to do at the last moment, no matter how much preparation you have done, and having the third car at our disposal is good opportunity last chance to test unplanned things with a bit of freedom."
Q: On a general note, what is your impression of the season so far?
"The first races marked the introduction of the new engine regulations and I have to admit I am quite pleased with the level of reliability we have achieved so far. In the pre-season testing we were very focussed on completing a race weekend mileage and I think we can be proud of the job we have done. Actually, the whole engine/chassis package has proved to be extremely reliable, but the actual performance still needs some work. A lot of things have already been put in place and development is ongoing, so the improvements will come."
Q: Does Toyota impose any restrictions on the engine during the race weekend?
"We normally have a pre-planned strategy for each race weekend to avoid using too much engine life on Fridays. We have the advantage of running the third car in Friday practice, so we usually we have some limitation on the race cars on the first day. For Saturday and Sunday, though, we have a constant engine usage apart from the option we give to the driver to increase the revs slightly in the qualifying session."
Q: Now the engine regulations have been in place for two races, how do you think the one engine-per-weekend rule is working?
"I think that the new engine regulations have worked very well from a technical point of view and have ultimately had no negative influence on the show, which is important. There is still some confusion about engine changes after qualifying, or shall I say before the race, but I think that a suitable agreement has to be made on this matter in due course."
Q: How much performance is lost throughout the weekend?
"One of the most important criteria we have when developing a state-of-the-art F1 V10 engine is to have no long-term drop in performance. It is inevitable that after around 700 kilometres, there is a slight reduction in performance level, but it is our job to limit this drop to the minimum possible, otherwise we would end up with an engine at the end of the race with completely incorrect gear ratios. With the modified rules for 2004, when we speak about the mileage of an engine, it means the mileage for which an engine has a stable level of performance, in terms of oil consumption, fuel consumption, etc."
Q: How will the RVX-04 develop during the season?
"We have several steps of the RVX-04 planned during the course of the year. We have not defined a certain number of strategies, but we are working in several areas. One of the first priorities is a reduction in weight, as well as improvement in performance. There is additionally a more sophisticated strategy to improve the use of the engine during the race weekend."
"These changes will be implemented shortly, but we have nothing special for any particular race. In parallel to the development of the chassis, the engine department is giving its contributions in direct relation to increasing the car's competitiveness, but also to future repackaging, lowering the centre of gravity and a weight reduction of the TF104 race car as a whole."
Q: Has work already begun on the RVX-05?
"Design of the RVX-05 already started at the end of 2003 and the new Toyota F1 engine should be ready for the testbench around July. We are still working on the shorter lead-time parts and this is an ongoing process. We hope to run the new model on the dyno later in the year to get as much mileage on it as possible, but ideally we will run it in a car at tests before the season is finished. In theory, it should be ready to be fitted in a car by September, but we will investigate the feasibility of this later in the year."