Panasonic Toyota Racing unveils the TF108
Panasonic Toyota Racing today unveiled the TF108, its entry for the 2008 FIA Formula 1 World Championship and the car it expects to challenge at the front next season.
At the team's technical centre in Cologne, Germany, key figures from Panasonic Toyota Racing joined drivers Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi to take the wraps off the TF108 in front of the worldwide media and thousands of fans live on www.toyota-f1.com.
Toyota's challenging spirit and determination to meet ambitious targets has played a key part in the evolution of the TF108, with key features of the new car being a longer wheelbase, a major aerodynamic upgrade, revised suspension and a new gearbox. Wind tunnel tests and simulations show the TF108 is a marked improvement on its predecessor and the team expects to move closer to its long-term aim of winning races and fighting for the World Championship.
Chairman and Team Principal Tadashi Yamashina says: 'Of course, our ultimate target is the middle step of the podium - we are in Formula 1 to win and we want to do that soon. Our clear target in 2008 is to make a big improvement in our results because we were not satisfied with our performance last year. We expect to have a truly competitive car so our drivers should be aiming to finish in the points regularly and challenging for the podium.'
Úsing the renowned Toyota Way principles to encourage innovation and a spirit of challenge, the team have worked tirelessly to finalise the TF108 concept and put their innovative thinking into practice, as Yamashina-san adds: 'At the factory everyone is motivated and pushing as hard as possible, always aiming for kaizen, continuous improvement.
'The team work is very impressive and communication is very good between all departments which has definitely helped in the development of the TF108. Everybody is working together as one unit so I am very happy with that. We have real team spirit.
'We have great potential in this team - we have the right people in place and the right resources so we have every reason to be optimistic.'
Since making its Formula 1 debut in 2002, Panasonic Toyota Racing has strengthened and learnt from experience. The challenge of building the entire car - chassis and engine - under one roof, with a new team is significant but everyone at the Cologne technical centre is impatient to succeed and great strides continue to be made towards the ultimate goal.
Engine : 2.4 L., 8-cylinder
Power: 740 hp
President John Howett says: 'We look in good shape for 2008, there is no question about that. The hard work continues all the time. We started the TF108 in earnest more or less the day the TF107 hit the track and the development has been remorseless, which it has to be because of the competitive pressure of Formula 1.
'The key issue has been to identify the major elements which contribute to performance enhancement and put more resources into those areas. Clearly the car is improving, I think, dramatically and continually, but so are the other cars. It is therefore the relative rate of performance gain that is absolutely critical. We have to work harder and smarter than our competitors.'
The TF108 is significantly different to its predecessor, on the outside and the inside, as a result of the team's continuous search for improvement, as well as regulation changes.
Formula 1 technology is constantly evolving and the team's designers have kept pace, resulting in noticeable changes for the TF108. A key change is that increase in wheelbase, the distance between front and rear axles.
Senior General Manager Chassis Pascal Vasselon explains: 'The main reason for making the wheelbase longer is to achieve more stability, but secondly we also expect greater aerodynamic development potential, giving our aerodynamicists wider surfaces and more space to play with.'
As well as a longer wheelbase, the TF108 boasts a distinctive new aerodynamic concept and advanced suspension lay-outs.
'The aerodynamic concept of this car has changed,' adds Pascal. 'The TF107 was an evolution of the TF106 but this time the new package is a departure from recent Toyotas. The primary aerodynamic design philosophy for the TF108 is geared towards optimising the entire package. In mechanical terms we felt we had a strong basis so we have focused on making a few refinements.'
A key element of Toyota Way thinking is genchi genbutsu - going to the source - and in developing the TF108, Pascal and his team have analysed the TF107's characteristics to find performance solutions. He says: 'In 2007, the performance overall was not where it had to be so there were obviously some weaknesses. The objectives for TF108 development are aerodynamic efficiency and drivability. For 2008, we want a car offering a wider operating window.'
Improvement is not restricted to chassis development and under the skin of the TF108 lies a new gearbox and, importantly, a new electronic control unit (ECÚ) for the RVX-08 engine.
In 2008, all teams must use the same ECÚ while electronic driver aids such as traction control and engine braking have been banned. The change to a standard ECÚ represented a major challenge, as Senior General Manager Engine Luca Marmorini explains: 'On a Formula 1 engine, or indeed any modern car engine, even the mechanical parts are controlled by electronics so this is a big, big change.
'For a high revving engine, like in a Formula 1 car, the engine will definitely change a lot from a dynamic point of view due to a change in the control system. It is a big investment from a development point of view to adapt it.'
Once again, engine development is frozen so only minor modifications have been allowed in the interests of reliability. However, the development effort from Luca and his team has not lessened; the focus has merely shifted. This has meant concentrating on how the engine is used, dragging every last bit of performance from the package as well as constantly improving the elements around the engine where development is allowed - all this while optimising engine performance with a new ECÚ and the traction control ban.
'That work does have a positive effect on performance and lap time but we are not speaking about big changes because we do not have the freedom,' Luca says. 'We can only work within this very strict framework but we have done some interesting development and we expect to see positive results in 2008.'
Of course, the launch of a new car is only the first step. Panasonic Toyota Racing has set ambitious targets for its latest car and intense development will continue up to and beyond the first race of the season in Australia on March 16, when the final aerodynamic package will be available.
The team is ready for the challenge ahead, as Pascal says: 'Everyone has worked very hard to get to this stage but really the work is far from being complete. Now we will focus first on understanding the characteristics of the car on the track in order to steer set-up and development directions. There is a lot of work to do to get the most out of the car before the season starts so there will be no let-up in our efforts.'
That work resumes immediately with the TF108 roll out on 13 January followed by its first official test a day later, also at Jerez. There are a further five tests before the start of a season which Panasonic Toyota Racing hopes to be its best yet.New drivers, same ambitious goals for Panasonic Toyota Racing
Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi were presented together for the first time as Panasonic Toyota Racing's 2008 drivers at the team's pre-season event in Cologne, Germany today.
Jarno begins his fourth full season as a Panasonic Toyota Racing race driver, with Timo joining as his new team-mate after winning the GP2 Series title in 2007. Kamui, a product of the Toyota Young Drivers Programme, is the new third driver and combines his role with racing in the GP2 Series.
The new TF108 is the product of an exhaustive research and development process, into which Jarno has contributed the benefit of his considerable Formula 1 experience, giving him confidence for the season ahead.
'My hopes are always high because normally I am very positive,' he says. 'I think that the team has got the potential, the resources, the people and everything necessary to bounce back to the position where we belong. I believe we can produce a good car for next year.
'I have been giving input into this car since the middle of the 2007 season, helping to develop the car to adapt to the new rules which ban traction control and engine braking. There is quite a big change in terms of electronics this year and I have spent time working with the team on this. I am doing all I can in order to help the team to step up.'
The 33-year-old Italian joined Panasonic Toyota Racing towards the end of the 2004 season so 2008 represents his fourth full season with the team. He has developed a close working relationship with the team in that time and believes this will have a positive effect this year. He adds: 'I really enjoy working with the team and I am comfortable here. I know the engineers and the way the team works so I think that kind of stability has to be an advantage. We work strongly as a team and we are pulling together to help move forward after the problems we had in 2007.
'Obviously it was a difficult season in terms of results and performance but we are all committed to making a significant improvement. I know the team very well and they know me very well - we understand each other's potential and I am sure sticking together will be an advantage.'
For 2008, Panasonic Toyota Racing's race driver line-up has an exciting blend of youth and experience, with Timo moving up to his first full-time Formula 1 race drive.
He is already a proven champion after a superb season in the GP2 Series, where he showed his fighting sprit and adaptability to win the championship. But the 25-year-old is far from a stranger to a Formula 1 cockpit, having spent a year as test and then race driver for Jordan in 2004 before acting as BMW Sauber test driver last season.
His hard work and impressive feedback were obvious to the team when he tested a Toyota for the first time in December and the young German is ready for the challenge of Grand Prix racing, starting in Melbourne on 16 March.
'I can't wait,' he says. 'It will be a very proud and exciting moment for me but I will also be focused on getting the best possible result in the race, as always. Formula 1 will be a little different compared to the other series I have raced in because I am racing against 21 of the best drivers in the world, but my job is still the same - to get the best possible result from my car.'
After enjoying success in GP2, Timo is confident and motivated ahead of the 2008 season, when he expects to help the team achieve its goal of a significant improvement in results by scoring points regularly.
'I want to have the most successful season possible,' he says. 'I aim to be consistent and to help the team move upwards. My first goal will be to regularly challenge for points and I believe we will be able to do that.
'Even though I have not raced in Formula 1 since 2004, I have tested quite regularly so I expect it will take very little time for me to get back in the groove. I have been lucky enough to race and succeed in several different championships in my career but my goal has always been to become a full-time Formula 1 race driver. I believe my experience has made me stronger as a driver and as a person.'
The youngest member of the driver line-up is 21-year-old Kamui, who continues his rapid rise up the motorsport ranks by stepping in as third driver.
Like fellow newcomer Timo, Kamui has already tested for Panasonic Toyota Racing, most recently at Jerez in December, and he showed the ability to make a positive contribution to car development - not to mention impressive fitness by completing over 200 laps in two days.
As well as developing the TF108 this season, Kamui expects to develop himself as a driver while learning more about the fastest racing cars on earth. He says: 'Everything is just more extreme and it is a special experience to drive a Formula 1 car. It is difficult to drive at the limit of the car, at the limit of grip and at the limit of your concentration - it requires a high level of performance.
'It will be a challenge for me but I will always do my best. I will work hard on improving the car but also on improving myself because I do not have a lot of Formula 1 experience and I can get better in the way I communicate to my engineers and things like that.'
He is clear about the task ahead as third driver, which is to work in tandem with the race drivers to continuously improve the TF108 throughout the coming season.
'It is very exciting to become a third driver in Formula 1 but I know there is a lot of work to do,' he adds. 'When I moved to Europe to start racing formula cars my ambition was to one day become a Formula 1 driver and it feels great to say I am now a Formula 1 driver. We all want to make a really good car and we are working hard to achieve that.'
Kamui is not alone - everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing is passionate about succeeding in Formula 1 and the whole team, including all three drivers, is fighting together to make 2008 a successful season.Source - Toyota
If there is one team in Formula One that is the most paradoxical it would have to be the Toyota team. Year after year Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes throw hundreds of millions of dollars into their team and prove to be an almost unbeatable one-two punch. Toyota invests probably as much or more, and yet, a celebration like no other breaks out when the team merely gets on the podium. Toyota has proven to be the worst return on investment—amazing given the company's passenger cars. Toyota has been the exception—money doesn't translate into success. This has to be the most confusing thing. It isn't that they don't have the resources. The problem has to lie someplace else.
Since the debut of the team back in 2002 and until 2007 the team has only been able to amass 163 points. Now of course there have been teams that have been around for longer in Formula One's history that would have loved to have scored that many points. But to truly get an idea how justified Toyota's critics are some more numbers are needed to put things in the correct perspective.
Granted, both McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari have been around for much longer and that pays dividends when developing a winning team. However, Toyota is throwing as much money at their team, if not more, than these two championship winning teams. So, it only takes a comparison of Toyota to McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari during the period of 2002—2007 to get an idea of how bad things really are. From 2002—2007, Toyota, as a team, has accounted for a total of 163 points. During that same period McLaren-Mercedes earned 568, with the 2007 points total being thrown out due to a cheating scandal. To really put things in the proper perspective Toyota has only to be compared with Ferrari. From 2002—2007, Ferrari has amassed a total of 1,146 points! Clearly, money helps make any team successful. But, it's how that money is invested that makes all the difference.
Toyota, however, is hoping its investment in its design, the TF108, will pay off big dividends. Overall, the TF108 is a bit different than its 2007 predecessor. Instead of a high, narrow nose the 2008 design sports a wider more drooping nose. Over the course of last season Toyota developed an upper wing profile that was blended into the nose. Interestingly, this design idea was abandoned but picked up on by Ferrari. Instead, Toyota abandoned the incorporated upper wing and nose profile and instead went after and adopted a design that spans the entire length over the nose like that on the McLaren Mercedes.
The TF108 retains the twin/zero-keel arrangement to which the suspension members are attached. This design feature helps to keep disruptions to airflow underneath the nose down to a minimum. The twin-keel design works in unison with the sidepods being pulled in tighter at the bottom. With the bargeboards and turning vanes, the more contoured radiator inlets still pull in the necessary cool air while the tighter design allows unnecessary air to pass around the car causing less drag. The TF107 of a year ago had more square-like radiator inlets and this obviously proved to be less effective. So, to help control the airflow, and thus, reduce drag and help with stability, Toyota has updated the turning vanes that attach to the sidepods. The scoop caused by the attach point to the sidepod catches more of the air trying to pass around the car. Besides this, the turning vanes have been redesigned to a larger spec, especially aft. This factor helps maintain the airflow around the car so that it will not collide with the rest of the airflow passing by the car.
Taking a page from the Renault team, Toyota decided to incorporate the rearview mirrors into the turning vanes. However, by the first races of the season the more conventional location of the mirrors attached to the nose reappeared.
An interesting concept on the TF108 is the incorporation of the chimneys and the t-wing located out on the sidepods. While these features have been incorporated together on many cars by many teams, Toyota has gone to seemingly greater lengths using the chimney as the support for the t-wing, thereby throwing out any need for a support pillar for the small wing. This arrangement appeared on the TF107 but had been altered slightly for this year. With this design feature of using the chimney for support, the opening used to expel built up heat is cut out of the side of the t-wing/chimney arrangement instead of out of the top like most designs.
With the loss of driver aids like traction control, stability at the rear of the car is of utmost importance. Therefore, the dorsal fin-style of the engine cowling has a greater arc on this year's design to help direct airflow smoothly back toward the rear wing. As the season progressed, however, this cowling design changed to a style similar to that of other teams with a major portion of the spine extending backward almost to the rear wing, looking much more like a fin. Toyota also incorporated McLaren-style control vanes to the sides of the engine cowling to help direct and control the rather turbulent air that passes over that section of the car.
Looking at the rear of the TF108 it is interesting to note Toyota must have found a good balance at the rear of the TF107 because from the cockpit back there is very little difference from the TF108 to the TF107. This can be a good sign for the future because of all the parts that make up a Formula One car, the one area that experiences or causes the greatest amounts of turbulence around the rear of the car are the rear wheels. To combat this Toyota utilized some interesting design concepts to help deal with the turbulent air that causes instability. First of all, the leading edge of the rear wheel flip-ups is extended and practically incorporated into the sidepod ears similar to that of the Renault R27 of a year ago. The flip-ups help to direct air over the rear wheels, and thereby reduce some amount of the turbulence caused by the air striking the wheel. Toyota actually utilized a double-decker rear wheel flip-up design on the TF107 that remains on the 108 to further help with turbulence by directing the air that is passing underneath the upper flip-up over the rear wheel still.
To further aid in defeating turbulence back near the rear wheels, shrouds inboard of the wheels that connected to the flip-ups help to direct airflow out the back of the car and less likely to become enveloped with the turbulence the spinning wheels themselves cause.
However, unlike most designs, the inboard shrouds don't merely attach smoothly to the flip-ups creating a barrier around the rear wheel. Instead, on the TF108, the leading edge of the inboard shroud extends further forward purposely splitting the airflow to either go inside of the shroud and out the back of the car, or, to go to the outside and over the rear wheel flip-up. This is just another deliberate attempt to control airflow and, thereby, control any instability.
Attached to these inboard shrouds is a mid-span wing that attaches to the engine cowling. As with the other teams up and down the paddock, this device helps control and channel the air before it leaves out the back of the car. This helps to smooth the airflow that passes out the rear of the car, thereby increasing the efficiency of the rear wing.
One interesting thing about the TF108 is, when it comes to the rear wing, the support pillars are back on this year's design. On the TF107 the entire rear wing structure was held in place by the endplates connected to the lower wing element that attached to the gearbox housing at the rear of the car. This design allowed for no disruption of the airflow underneath the rear wing and out the back of the car because there were no support pillars in the air's way. But that has changed this year. However, Toyota's designers have tooled the TF108 so that the pillars and the engine cowling spine work together to direct the airflow at the back of the car, and thus, minimize the effect the presence the pillars may have. When it comes to the rear wing this is about the only change Toyota has made from the TF107 to the TF108.
Every aspect of the design is focused around stability. Of course one of the more controversial pieces Toyota has implemented on the TF108 is the cooling shields. The cooling shields help extract the hot air developed by the brakes so to help cool them and to help increase the integrity of the brakes over the length of a race. But with stability being the all-important focus it is no wonder these devices have seen some controversy since they undoubtedly help smooth turbulent airflow passing to the side of the wheels.
Stability is the most important design feature within F1 teams now that traction and launch control systems are banned. Computers controlling the slippage of the wheels could be used to overcome any instability. With the aid gone every team is scrambling to provide their drivers a stable platform to help keep the car glued to the track no matter whether the car is accelerating, decelerating or, especially, turning. Toyota believes the TF108 to be a stable platform that will enable its drivers to take the team to the next level…the team's first win.
Toyota's driver lineup has been less than stellar over its short history, but it has and has had capable drivers that just seemed unable to deliver. Of course, not all of the problems are to be blamed on the drivers. In fact, the TF107 was accused of 'falling off' as a race wore on. And, given the fact the team once had and then lost Mike Gascoyne, one of Formula One's technical talents, says there could be other factors hindering the team's performance even beyond the driver or the car. Yet, no matter what other contributing factors there are, the first stops for blame, if a team is performing poorly, is either the driver or the car. Right now, it is difficult to truly point the finger at the element(s) that is not performing up to expected levels. But Toyota is hoping and trusting in the TF108 to help erase any doubts toward at least one of those two important investments.By Jeremy McMullen