Of course it is naturally disappointing when a team decides to leave Formula 1 – especially one as big as Toyota. The Japanese manufacturer are just another in an ever growing list of Asian companies to have decided to jump from developmental motorsports in the last 18 months; that list includes Bridgestone and Honda (F1), Subaru and Suzuki (WRC) and Kawasaki (Moto GP) – there may be others that I have not heard about yet.
Whether Formula 1 will truly miss Toyota or not is a different matter, but the initial feeling from fans and viewers is that while it is bad news that another team has left the sport, no one is surprised that Toyota have split – it is news that had been rumbling for over a year. There were strong rumours at the start of this season that they had to win at least one race during the 2009 season, otherwise a serious rethink would be necessary.
Considering that they had some of the highest funding in Formula 1 history, the best the team managed was 4th place in the Constructor’s Championship in 2005 (which was achieved under speculation of cheating) and a number of 2nd place finishes. However, 13 podiums in 8 years for a team that reportedly spent over $1 billion is simply not good enough – the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Renault have won World Championships by spending less money.
Stories of political infighting and difference of opinion regarding future direction seemed to plague the team following team boss Ove Andersson’s departure from the squad in 2003; too much influence wielded by people from outside of the team itself also seemed to be a constant complaint – there appeared to be many instances of the team itself not working as a productive unit and Toyota are not be the first (or the last) to fall into that trap.
The truth be told, Toyota are not a racing team; they’re a car manufacturer – one of the biggest in the world, if not the biggest. For a company such as this, motorsports is a side-issue and like Jaguar and BMW, they seem to lack the appreciation for motorsports to understand its finer nuances.
Many large constructor’s see F1 as a massive marketing tool, but I have never met a single person who bought a Toyota, Honda, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault or Ford because they happened to be competing in Formula 1 – it is not a theory that enters the public consciousness.
Toyota failed, sadly, because they didn’t know how to race.
There is one remaining question for Toyota: “was Timo Glock actually injured?” Whenever this subject came up over the last couple of races, there was a feeling of “Timo’s still injured (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)“, but we happen to have this Japanese who can jump in the car at a moments notice.
Admittedly Kamui Kobayashi did a very good job in the two races he drove for the team in Brazil and Abu Dhabi (if maybe a little ragged at times), but rolling out the national driver when the boardroom are considering pulling the plug was a little crass. Meanwhile, Glock himself appeared to be wandering around the paddock with seemingly little actually wrong with him.
In a sense Toyota had very little to lose in fielding the Japanese driver – they were mathematically too far ahead of the teams behind them and were never realistically going to catch the McLaren or Ferrari teams for 3rd or 4th place, so what ever result that Trulli and Kobayashi got in Brazil and Abu Dhabi would have little potential baring on the eventual outcome. So, did Glock deliberately crash in qualifying and thus, was he injured at all?
What now for Trulli, Glock and Kobayashi? Well, the rumour mill says that Trulli will be at Lotus and will be back with former Toyota and Jordan designer Mike Gascoyne at the new Lotus team and that Kobayashi is to battle it out with Takuma Sato for the second seat at the returning squad, while Timo Glock is nearly certainly signed by Renault, but it has yet to be officially announced.
How ironic that the last fuel stop in modern Formula 1 was done by a Toyota..? Well, not at all actually – that was just a coincidence…