The skin may have looked the same but, underneath the familiar white-and-red bodywork, Toyota insists that much has changed as it attempts to regain some Formula One respect with the TF108.

Unveiled in a relatively low-key ceremony - dramatic heartbeat build-up to the reveal notwithstanding - in Cologne, the TF108 is significantly different to its predecessor, both outside and inside, as the engineers and designers pressed ahead in the search for improvement, dictated both by regulation changes and the desire to make up for the disappointment of 2007 when it managed just 13 points in 17 races.

Among the notable changes made in the design of the TF108 is an increase in wheelbase, following the lead set by world champion Ferrari in 2007, as well as a distinctive new aerodynamic concept and advanced suspension lay-outs.

"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," senior general manager in charge of chassis design Pascal Vasselon explained.

"The aerodynamic concept of this car has changed. 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."

Toyota philosophy relies heavily on genchi genbutsu - translated as 'going to the source' - and, in developing the TF108, Vasselon and his team have analysed the TF107's characteristics to find performance solutions for the TF108.

"In 2007, the performance overall was not where it had to be, so there were obviously some weaknesses," he said, confirming the suspicions of almost all who watched F1 last season, "The objectives for the TF108's development were aerodynamic efficiency and drivability. For 2008, we want a car offering a wider operating window."

Improvement is not restricted to chassis development, however, and under the skin of the TF108 lies a new gearbox and, as mandated by the latest F1 rulebook, a new electronic control unit [ECU] for the RVX-08 engine, which all teams will have to use following the ban on driver aids such as traction control and engine braking. The change to a standard ECU, however, was not straightforward.

"On an F1 engine, or indeed any modern car engine, even the mechanical parts are controlled by electronics, so this is a big, big change," Vasselon's counterpart on the engine side, Luca Marmorini, admitted, "For a high revving engine, like in an F1 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 for 2008, so only minor modifications have been allowed in the interests of reliability. However, the development effort from Marmorini and his team has not lessened. Instead, the focus has merely shifted, concentrating on how the engine is used and dragging every last bit of performance from the package, as well as constantly improving the elements where development is allowed.

"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," Marmorini insisted, "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."

Development will continue up to and beyond the first race of the season in Australia on 16 March, when the final aerodynamic package will make its debut.

"Everyone has worked very hard to get to this stage but, really, the work is far from being complete," Vasselon stressed, "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."

Work resumes immediately with the car's track debut on 13 January, followed by a first official test a day later, both at Jerez. There are a further five tests planned before the start of a season.

 

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