We have to try to get the best out of the ECU and our engine - Marmorini

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As the TF108, the 2008 contender of Toyota, was presented to the world press and fans today at the factory in Cologne, Senior General Manager Engine, Luka Marmorini, talks about the development of the engine under the current regulations and the integration of the standard ECU.

Luca Marmorini Is the RVX-08 effectively the same as the RVX-07?

"I would say internally the engine is the same, due to the engine freeze regulations we are working with. There have been some minor modifications to the engine we submitted to the FIA for homologation, which are permitted within the regulations, but basically the heart of the engine is the same as the one we finished the 2006 season with."

What kind of things have you been able to change?

"We had a clear limit to the engine rpm and we knew that we couldn’t substantially modify important parts of the engine so we worked a lot to narrow the gap between the true limit of the engine and how we use it. In the past we left a bit of a margin and didn’t run the engine to the very limit because we were always able to move the rev limit or change some materials. From 2007 we were not allowed to do this so we had to invest in research and development to be sure we always use all the potential of the engine. This did not mean modification of parts but it did mean a different way of using the engine."

Were you able to affect performance?

"Yes, that work does have a positive effect on performance and lap time but definitely we are not speaking about big changes because we do not have the freedom. 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."

Will the RVX-08 be competitive in 2008?

"Yes, I think so. We are comfortable with where we are but, as always, we are working hard to improve."

After working within the engine freeze regulations for over a year, what are your thoughts?

"It is much less interesting because we tend to focus on very small details. We did that anyway because a good Formula 1 team takes care to make sure all the small details are correct. But under the current rules there is no way to develop interesting concepts on the engine which might have a use on road cars. In this sense it is much less interesting from an engine development point of view. We are always pushing the limit of the engine under these restrictions so we have put a lot of effort and resources into the quality of the parts. If you want to be pushing the engine close to its limit all the time, you want perfect parts. This is a big investment."

Does the engine freeze mean engines are less important in Formula 1 now?

"There is still a bit of development which can be done. We are still focused on improving lap time but now we cannot do this purely from increased power or revs as this is not allowed any longer. However, we have worked on using the engine in such a way that we will see an improvement in lap time anyway. In the end we have to win as a whole package – chassis and engine. Toyota is manufacturing the engine and chassis under the same roof so that is a big advantage to us."

What kind of performance targets have you set for the RVX-08?

"Honestly it is difficult to give details on our targets apart from with reliability. Our target for this year is to have zero race stoppages due to the engine. We achieved this in 2007 and we expect to do the same again. We do have other performance targets but I cannot go into the details because everyone is looking for ideas and something to add performance to the car."

What does an ECU do? Why is a standard ECU such an important change?

"On a Formula 1 engine, or indeed any modern car engine, even the mechanical parts are controlled by electronics. There are two elements to the standard ECU issue – one is the FIA decision to remove any active control systems such as traction control and the other is that everyone will use the same hardware. This is a big, big change. For a high revving engine, like 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."

How much of a challenge has it been to integrate the standard ECU?

"We have done a lot of testing on the dyno, looking into the reliability of the engine with this standard ECU. Then we have done a lot of tuning work on track to learn how to use an ECU which was new to our engineers. It is a big investment from a development point of view to adapt an existing engine that was developed with a different control system. It is tricky to make sure the engine works as it should using a new system and this has meant a lot of work for our engine and electronic people. However, I have to say I am pleased with the progress we have made."

What is the impact of a standard ECU on engine performance?

"It depends a lot. When you consider that we are all using our engines close to the absolute limit then definitely if you don’t fully understand how to use this new hardware you might need to give yourself more margin. You have to try to improve and get the best out of the new ECU and your engine, hoping there won’t be any reliability impact."

Have you solved the problems with starts which occurred in 2007?

"We studied the issues we had with start-line performance in 2007 and I think our general understanding of all the components that play a part in a good launch – tyres, engines, transmission, clutch and driver – improved significantly. We are fairly happy and confident with what we learned during the season but now a lot more control has been given to the driver so we have had to slightly change our approach for this season. With a standard ECU and restrictions on the control systems, a lot of responsibility is now on the driver and he has a lot more impact on the success of a start."

How would you assess the first year of the partnership with Williams?

"For me it was very positive. We definitely developed more as a team working with them, respecting the fact that they are competitors and each of us wants to be faster than the other. I would say that the cooperation worked extremely well and we also collected important information by working with them because basically we had four engines rather than two at all races. The good thing as well was that we had our engine in a competitive car so that gave us a benchmark. We are looking forward to working with them again this year."