Having already achieved their targets of improved stability and driveability, the Japanese teams senior general chassis manager is now predicting some serious gains in aerodynamic performance ahead of next months Australian Grand Prix…
Q: How do you assess the first four tests of the year?
Pascal Vasselon: We are happy with the progress we have made with the TF108. It has been very obvious from the first test that the TF108 is a different animal compared to the TF107, with much better stability and an all-around much better basis to work on. Our drivers feel a lot more confident in the car and they are able to push more. We have found that set-up work is much more straightforward and it is much easier to make progress in that area.
Q: What has the team been focusing on during these tests?
PV: After basic systems checks at the roll-out, which is more of a shakedown really, we have been looking at set-up and car development. We have spent the time learning how to use this package so we have worked on getting the mechanical set-up suited to the new aerodynamic concept. Because the stability of the TF108 is so much better we have to revisit most of the set-up directions we had developed with the TF107.
Q: Are you happy with the baseline configuration of the TF108?
PV: Yes, because during the development of the new car I said our main target was to improve the stability and driveability and that is exactly what we have done. It is a clear step forward which has a lot of potential to be developed even further. From the first test it was clear we were working in a different ball park and performing better.
Q: What areas are you looking to improve?
PV: At the moment I would say we have gained the stability we were looking for so we are now focusing on the improvement of pure aerodynamic efficiency.
Q: Are you concerned by the gap to the fastest cars?
PV: If you compare what is comparable, which means comparing times within the same test sessions and taking into account estimated fuel loads, you will see that at the moment the gap reflects a performance gain for the TF108 compared to last year. Of course there is still a gap, it is not good enough, and we are constantly striving to close it, but compared to this time last year I believe we are much closer to the cars at the front of the grid.
Q: So has the true potential of the TF108 been seen yet?
PV: There is still plenty of performance left to come from this car before we race for the first time. We have new parts coming through continuously but the biggest upgrade to the package will come just before the Australian Grand Prix. It is a process of continuous development which will peak just before Melbourne.
Q: When will we see the Melbourne package on the car?
PV: A lot of it will arrive during the two Barcelona test sessions, the final tests before the Australian Grand Prix. The introduction of the new parts will be staggered during those two tests but we will not run the whole Melbourne package until we get to the race weekend itself.
Q: How different will the TF108 be in Melbourne compared to these pre-season tests?
PV: It will be different but you will not see a big visible change. It will be a combination of front wing, brake drums, suspension members, turning vanes and barge boards so it is not a significant change to the cars appearance but it is a combination of detail changes which we believe will have a positive impact.
Q: Why did the team test in Bahrain?
PV: There are two reasons. Firstly there is the weather because you expect warmer conditions than in Europe and this allows us to run for the whole day and also to monitor cooling, which is relevant because we have a new cooling lay-out on the TF108. We wanted to test in the hottest climate available to look at this area. Secondly, the track lay-out in Bahrain is quite interesting because you have a good combination of high-speed corners and high-traction corners.
Q: How has Timo Glock performed in these tests?
PV: Timo has been immediately up to speed and immediately contributed to the development of the car. What we get with Timo is the advantage of a young driver without the disadvantage of a lack of experience. His racing and F1 experience is very good and he has been able to contribute a lot. He has done a perfect job so far but probably this is the easier bit of the season. The difficult bit will start in mid-March.