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After just under six months with Scuderia Toro Rosso, James Key looks at the technical challenges facing the team in the short and long-term and explains his role at the factory and the race track.
"I joined the team in September 2012 and coming to a new team, one never really knows what to expect until you start interacting with the people directly. What I found exceeded my expectations: it is not really clear from the outside how the size of the team has grown significantly over the past years and the level of facilities has increased and improved accordingly. For example, the new carbon manufacturing facility just completed in Faenza is state-of-the-art and would be the envy of many, given the high standard to which it's been built and specified.
"Over in Bicester, UK, the wind tunnel and aerodynamic departments are also expanding and there has been a lot of work to do on this side of the operation. Needless to say the majority of car performance is derived from its aerodynamics and a lot of work has been put into placing a heavy emphasis on the importance of the aero development. A big part of this has been to improve communications between the aero group in the UK and the design and manufacturing in Italy.
"In addition we are trying to ensure maximum aero development time with a quick turnaround of design and manufacturing periods. That is fundamental to what we do: a front wing will take the same amount of time to design and build for a given cost, but it could be worth one tenth of a second or four tenths of a second. It's those four tenths that count, so if you squeeze the timing here in Faenza and allow more time on the development side, then ultimately it should result in a better performance in the longer term. Although there was already an awareness of that, it's been a case of pushing that idea a bit more, tightening the deadlines and stressing the fact we must give as much time as possible to aero.
"With the CFD department based in Faenza, trying to ensure that the communications are as slick as they can be is also an important priority. We have introduced some new directions within the aero and CFD groups in the last few months to further improve our focus on development and our approach to how we develop the TR8 will be somewhat different to last year's car.
"I have not had to change much in the short time I've been here in the other technical groups, as it is the time of year when there's a need to get the 2013 car as developed as possible before it hits the track, therefore a lot of emphasis at the moment has been on the CFD and Aero departments.
"When it comes to the areas which seem to be working fine with no major issues, I have by and large left them alone at this stage. Our car's reliability last year was very good and one of the strengths we have is the attention to detail applied in the design, R&D and Quality Control areas. Everyone is very thorough in their work on the cars and how they are turned around here in the factory. Trackside, we also have a solid group and I have to say the operation at the track runs very smoothly from what I have seen to date.
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