Formula 1 Insight

Don't Forget Toyota

An odd thing is happening. I am beginning to be quite kindly disposed towards the Toyota team. They have been such a perfect example of how big corporations should not approach F1 that it was easy to get into the habit of scorning their efforts. To many of us, they seemed the epitome of how not to do things and we have criticized the odd decisions apparently made from on high, the tendency to throw money at problems, their disdain for some of the great names of the sport, even the conservatism of the car's livery.

Jarno Trulli
The Trulli Train

It was in Bahrain that I first noticed a shift in my attitude. The cars were quick and I found myself hoping that they would achieve their first win there. Even before that, I had remarked on how well designed the TF109 appeared to be and was gratified on being proved correct when the races began. But there is more to this than just a better car than before.

I was browsing the team website this morning when the real reason for my conversion became apparent. The site is quite slick on the surface, if not overwhelmingly corporate, but scratch a bit and endearing qualities of amateurism come to the eye. It struck me then that the unnoticed fact about Toyota F1 is that they are still beginners in a way that most teams shed after a couple of years in the game. In spite of their seven years in F1, the team has retained a certain innocence towards the harder facts of life in the sport.

The most recent example of this is their bungled strategy in Bahrain, somehow managing to snatch defeat from a race that should have been theirs. But there is more, not least the fact that the latest news on their site (barring a screensaver and a some wallpaper) is a politely worded note regarding the WMSC's decision on the double diffusers. Not for them the crowing assertion that they were right all along - instead they content themselves with an almost apologetic explanation of their development of the diffuser.

Even the team's choice of drivers, so often criticized in the past, begins to look quite cozy now. Who can dislike the smiling Jarno Trulli, after all, or say mean things about the battling Timo Glock? They may not be superstars but they are honest and capable of great performances on the track.

And, talking of smiling, it is easy to warm to the cheery John Howett, Toyota Motorsport's president. The man in charge of the chassis, Pascal Vasselon, too, is one of the most sensible voices in F1. It's not a bad team and I am persuaded to be kinder to them in future.

John Howett
John Howett

Perhaps it was all this that made me notice how the team were almost ignored in the comments to Keith Collantine's post, Teams bringing new parts to catch Brawn (Spanish Grand Prix preview). Yet in the graphs supplied by Keith, Toyota stood out as the most serious threat to Brawn GP, most often providing the closest competition.

That is the kind of thing that makes me want a team to win; if no one else is going to point out their qualities, then I will take up the challenge. And so I find it quite satisfying to say that Toyota should not be forgotten. We may be expecting some changes to the pecking order, now that the European races are about to begin, but I reckon Toyota will still be up there, looking for their first win and giving everyone something to think about in the process. They will not always get the strategy wrong, after all...


Number 38
I'm an American and as such don't have a compatriot on the grid, I will admit to waving the Union Jack whenever I can and have backed Button ever since old Flav threw him away ...... when was that 2002 or so? Old Flav threw away another good driver, a chap named Trulli, gave him a pink slip mid-season when Trulli had 46 points and stood 4th in the standings. That didn't make any sense and I guess it's been a sympathy following ever since. Drivers don't get many choices, Button to B.A.R. and later Honda but tenacity paid off and I think Trulli's move to Toyota was a survival move which is now paying off. Congratulations to both.
Toyota has finally got the car, they've got two GOOD drivers but now they need management, race management. A little more patience ...........
Date Added: 05/05/2009

Quite right, Number 38, Trulli has certainly served his time and deserves some success now. It's just the race management that needs to be a bit more savvy and hard-headed. They'll get there, I'm sure.
Date Added: 05/05/2009

The Toyota team are clearly still on a steep learning curve in regards to F1 and I fully expect them to keep improving. As to their website, I hate flash based sites and having to wait 30 seconds for the home page to load is amateurish at best, especially when it seems to do nothing that could not be done with plain old html and css. It looks like they are on a steep learning curve on the web too.......

However I also see nothing in the Toyota team that is offensive or particularly arrogant. They are a likeable team with reasonably likeable drivers. I hope they continue to do well.
Date Added: 06/05/2009

Steve Ellis
Count me as no Trulli fan. Like Webber, he is another driver who always goes backwards on the grid. And the Trulli train has reached legendary status, not without reason. Frankly up until his last year, I thought Ralf outpreformed Trulli other than in qualifying.

As for Toyota, no doubt they will stumble into a few wins in their tenure in F1 but unless they change their approach, it seems to me they will never be serious contenders. I'm not sure the way they have set up their team is conducive to a high level of success in F1. I guess time will tell.
Date Added: 06/05/2009

Steve: That's just the thing - I think I detect a change of approach in the Toyota team. I could be wrong but they seem more relaxed somehow (and I know that doesn't make sense, since they have the threat of closure hanging over them). They seem more like a team about to score its first win than one in its last year.
Date Added: 06/05/2009

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