Posts Tagged ‘Toyota’

A ping on the inbox on this most extraordinary of afternoons and a statement from FOTA appears.

This one is interesting because it suggests that they plan ‘regrettably’ to publish a dossier of reasons why the current FIA plans for Formula 1 are bad for the sport, in their opinion and why the whole thing is proving a turn-off for fans.

“In response to the erroneous statement made today by FIA, the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) wishes to underline that the entries of all its members – excluding the temporarily suspended Force India and Williams – have been submitted to the FIA as conditional entries.

“The entries to the 2010 FIA F1 Championship submitted by BMW-Sauber, BrawnGP, Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull Racing, Renault, Toro Rosso and Toyota were based upon conditions that have still yet to be met.

“FOTA will continue to act constructively on resolving differences with the FIA. Regrettably FOTA is being forced to outline in detail our objections to the new arbitrary FIA proposals and we will release details of our concerns in the near future which will constructively explain why the FIA’s proposals are bad for the future of Formula One, the jobs of those employed within the motor-racing industry and especially the millions of loyal fans who are dismayed and confused at the internal bickering within our sport.

“FOTA reaffirms the unity and strength of its members, welcomes the three new F1 entrants announced today and remains committed to work with all the bodies of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile to resolve our differences.”

Stories continue to circulate that this process is pushing two of the manufacturers, Toyota and Renault, to review their participation in F1. But when you speak to the teams themselves they say that this is all spin. Nevertheless, Renault and Toyota are engine suppliers to Red Bull and Williams respectively, so other teams are involved. Frank Williams said on Saturday that he has a contract with Toyota for next year and his entry is listed as being Williams Toyota. But Red Bull Racing is listed as TBA on the engine side, as is Toro Rosso, currently a Ferrari customer and Brawn, currently with Mercedes.

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Before the Turkey weekend I flagged up that I was interested in Toyota’s performance after their alarming slump in Monaco and to some extent, Spain.

Well Jarno Trulli had a great weekend, qualifying 5th and racing strongly against Nico Rosberg to finish fourth. Toyota are looking pretty good in third place in the championship, although you can see them possibly dropping one place to fourth when Ferrari get motoring in the second half of the season. What was hugely encouraging for Toyota in Istanbul, though, was that they kept the Ferraris behind them all weekend, despite the massive gains the Scuderia has made of late.

Here’s Trulli’s view, “We are back on track and it was good to be fighting at the front of the grid again. To return to the top five immediately after what happened in Monaco is great and it is a credit to the team, who have worked really hard to improve our performance. We were not far away from the fastest car; there is still a small gap which we will work to close but we are moving in the right direction.

“Basically it has been achieved through a lot of hard work after Monaco, by everyone in the team. Monaco is a one-off race and we felt sure our problems would not be repeated in Turkey but we didn’t leave this to chance. We had a few upgrades, with changes to the front and rear wings, which brought additional performance. Overall we improved in many areas, including the start which was fantastic for me on Sunday. Timo and I have worked together with the team to understand where we can improve and the result we had in Turkey was a nice reward for our effort. ”

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I posted yesterday on Toyota and how they appear to have been going backwards in the last two races, wondering what they would be like in Turkey this weekend.

In my mail box this morning is a Q&A with Toyota boss John Howett explaining a little more about what’s gone wrong and what their chances are for Istanbul. So I thought I would run an excerpt from it, to round out the picture.

What are the team’s chances for the Turkish Grand Prix?
“I believe we have a very good chance in Turkey. We are third in the Constructors’ Championship and, with the exception of Monaco, we have been competitive everywhere this season. Both our drivers are performing really well at the moment and we know our car is fundamentally strong on normal circuit layouts so we are optimistic.”

Why was the Monaco performance so disappointing?
“In Barcelona we saw that in sector three – the slowest part of the track – our car was not performing as well as expected and this was magnified in Monaco, where the whole track is low speed. Basically our car is not particularly strong on slow-speed sections and we have to improve this.”

What have you done since Monaco to address the problem?
“The team back in Cologne has worked extremely hard to understand what happened in Monaco. We have analysed the Monaco situation based on the actual weekend data, specific wind tunnel tests and even a straight-line aero test. A solution is now being developed from these results.”

Has Toyota slipped off the pace since Barcelona?
“In terms of results, clearly we have not achieved what we expected in the last two races but I firmly believe our car is inherently very competitive and we will have the results to show that in the coming races. Our car was reasonably strong in Barcelona, particularly in the medium-high speed sections of the lap. Unfortunately we had poor starts and this compromised the race, with Jarno involved in an accident and Timo stuck in traffic. We had a very good chance of finishing in the top six, which would have been a decent result. Monaco was obviously not acceptable but it is a unique lay-out and I have no doubt we will be competitive again in Turkey. We have new parts coming for all of the next races so I believe you will see Toyota fighting at the front again very, very soon.”

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One of the teams I will be keeping a very close eye on this weekend is Toyota. When I went to the pre-season test at Barcelona, Toyota was one of the teams you would say was in the best shape. Jarno Trulli could barely contain his delight that he had what appeared to be a very good car, after several frustrating years.

Toyota: Making a god car bad?

Toyota: Making a good car bad?

And so it proved in the first four races, where the team averaged 6.6 points per race, putting them a strong third in the championship.

But since then they have really struggled and have blanked twice, in Spain and Monaco. The problem in Monaco was that they didn’t seem to be able to get the tyres working properly and suffered a lack of grip. That same problem hit them in Barcelona, particularly in the race, where their car was the slowest in the final sector of the lap, which is very tight and twisty. But what was alarming was that they were also the second slowest car in the middle sector of the lap. This is hard to believe given how competitive they were just a few months earlier on the same track. To my eye and according to the lap times from the test, they had the second or third fastest car at that stage.

When you look back to Bahrain, they had the pole and a great chance of winning their first race, but then they went for the less competitive tyre for the middle stint of the race and lost the initiative. I’ve spoken to the team in depth about this and grilled Jarno and he is adamant that he would still have lost to Button even if they had made the right tyre choice, because the margins were so tight that day.

If Bahrain was a tactical false move, then the team seems generally to have taken a wrong turn with its car since Bahrain. The new wing set up didn’t work for them in Spain and they are in danger of changing a good car into a bad one.

Of course part of the story is that the other teams who did not have the benefit of the double diffuser at the start of the year have caught up – remember the diffuser row? Seems like a lifetime ago now, doesn’t it?

Toyota team boss John Howett described the performance in Monaco as “unacceptable” – a catch phrase he’s picked up from Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali – and has vowed that the team will bounce back in Turkey.

“We saw in Spain and Monaco that we were not good enough on slow-speed sectors and we have worked tirelessly to understand the reason for this,” says Howett. ” When I spoke to team members on Sunday in Monaco they admitted that they were at a loss to understand what had gone wrong. Timo Glock says that he has been to the factory to try to get to the bottom of it with the engineers and to give reassurance to everyone there.

“It tends to be influenced by traction and this was magnified by Monaco, ” says Howett. “We have conducted a straight-line aero test and that will give us the information we need to rapidly develop a solution. Turkey is a very different circuit to Monaco and I am very optimistic we will be strong.”

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Just had an email from Toyota saying that they will not be pursuing their appeal against the penalty given to Jarno Trulli on Sunday, which cost him third place finish.

“Following the decision by Australian Grand Prix stewards to impose a 25-second time penalty on Jarno Trulli, Toyota Motorsport filed notification of its intent to appeal.

This action was taken to preserve any right it may have to utilise the appeal procedure and to give it time to consider in appropriate detail all the facts relating to the incident.

Having considered recent judgments of the International Court of Appeal and referring to the Sporting Code it is believed that any appeal will be rejected on a procedural point such as that defined under article 152, paragraph 5 of the Sporting Code:

“Penalties of driving through or stopping in pit lanes together with certain penalties specified in FIA Championship regulations where this is expressly stated, are not susceptible to appeal.”

Based on this Toyota Motorsport has decided that it would serve no benefit to pursue this course of action.”

Although the weekend started well for them with a protest against their diffuser thrown out, Toyota was the most penalised team in Melbourne, with both cars excluded from the qualifying results for having overly flexible rear wings, which gave a straight line speed advantage. As far as I know, no-one had protested the wings, the FIA were on to the subject on their own.

Trulli was penalised for passing Lewis Hamilton, after the McLaren had gone past him when he went off the road near the end of the race.

It was also pointed out in the paddock on Sunday night that as Trulli went off the road when behind a safety car, he was clearly not driving as cautiously as perhaps one ought to in that situation.

They had a quick car in Melbourne and as a result of the penalty have nothing to show for it. But they will be quick in Sepang this weekend too.

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One of the most striking things about the way the testing has been going has been the performance of Toyota. In the hands of both drivers the car has proved reliable as well as fast over long runs, the ideal triple crown, really.

You sense that this could be the year of the breakthrough for Toyota which is still looking for its first win in F1. Jarno Trulli certainly seemed to think that is the case, when I caught up with him this evening.

“We hope so, we are optimistic,” he said. “Only the race results will tell us the truth, but so far this is one of the best cars that Toyota has made so I’m confident that we can be right at the top.”

Trulli and team mate Timo Glock have been matching the testing performances of BMW and Ferrari so far this winter and according to Trulli, the picture is accurate.

“We can be there with them,” he said. “We are always competitive, always at the top of the list. Our aim is to be in the top three or four at the start of the season and see what we can do from there. I’m more and more confident. Only Melbourne will tell us for sure but we are in pretty good shape.

“The car is consistent on long runs, we’ve done several and we have found the car consistent in every condition.

“When the car is quick nothing is tricky. So far this car has been quite competitive from the beginning. I think the aerodynamics guys got it right from the beginning. The front wing change has been useful. With slick tyres it’s fine but it’s a new experience for us and for Bridgestone and we need to find the right compounds because everyone was struggling in Jerez.

“Slicks can be an advantage for me because on grooved tyres I had some problems, especially with front graining, which I really didn’t like.”

Trulli is a formidable qualifier, as we know and he could well feature at the front of the grid in Melbourne. When the car is working well he’s raced very well too as his string of podiums three years ago showed. Since then it’s been a bit of a struggle, with certain tracks like Magny Cours and Budapest working well for the team, while it has traditionally struggled at bumpy circuits. Trulli thinks that this will still be the case, but in a milder form and thinks that the baseline of this car is just generally a lot higher than it has been before.

Watch out for Trulli in 2009!

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I was interested to see that at a press conference at Portimao circuit yesterday, attended by colleagues from the ITV F1 website, Toyota’s John Howett sounded a stark warning about Toyota’s future in the sport if they do not succeed this season.

He said, ” We have a great team of people and I think we just feel it’s about time we won. We need a strong season. If we have a weak season we have no future.

“Whether we have to win is difficult to say, but I think we feel we have to win.”

This is slightly at odds with the tone of the language at the launch and represents a significant ramping up of the stakes by Toyota. Going back to that shocking week in early December when Honda announced they were pulling out of F1, the word on the street in the days leading up to Honda’s announcement was that Toyota was about to announce something. If indeed they ever were planning a withdrawal or even a phased announcement, once Honda pulled the plug, they merely said that at present they were committed.

Everyone has been looking at Toyota for some time and wondering when they will follow Honda. Now John Howett has made a comment, which will hang over them throughout the season. There is a coded message to the powers that be not to take Toyota’s participation for granted, but I think this is more of a call to arms than anything else, a calculated message to everyone in the team to dig deep, ignite the passion and find something special. The team is actually quite bullish about this season ahead, despite the fact that the word I’m hearing is that this is quite a conservative car at the moment, compared to the others.

Nevertheless Jarno Trulli reacted to Howett’s comments by saying, “Now the pressure is on the whole team, we have the structure, the means and the experience. I’m convinced that this will be the year in which Toyota will celebrate its first win and I hope it’s me who brings it.”

What we have at the moment is a phoney war, the early shots are being fired, but because of rain and teams being at different tracks it’s way too early to say who’s quick and who’s not. My hunch, from previous experience, is that someone will have found an edge with these new rules and it doesn’t have to be Ferrari and McLaren, it could easily be a Renault, a BMW or a Toyota.

Adrian Newey has a pretty fantastic track record at interpreting new rules and finding an edge, so the Red Bull will be interesting to see when it launches next month. The technical group there is now well and truly bedded in and the Renault engine has been brought up to level power with the others. Webber and Vettel will get the thing flying.. if it’s good enough to be flown..

With such massive rule changes it’s virtually certain that the pecking order will be different this year from last. Williams too has a good chance to move up. I can’t wait until the picture starts to emerge over next month’s tests.

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Toyota needs a win

Amid promises of a first win being around the corner and a commitment to stay in F1 for the long term, Toyota virtually launched their new car today in an online ceremony, which saved them a lot of money. It’s important at the moment in F1 to show that you are cutting costs wherever possible. I’m hearing that job cutting programmes are starting to bite now, many posts have been shed in catering departments, while one UK based manufacturer team has imposed a 20% pay cut on management and 10% on the workforce. There will be some big job losses very soon as the pre-Christmas FIA world council decisions kick in.

Toyota, which has had a 1,000 strong workforce in Cologne will surely be among them. The company announced, shortly before Honda’s withdrawal from F1, that it expected to lose over £1 billion this year as car sales plummet around the world. And because F1 is now viewed as part of the automotive sector, rather than as as media property or an entity in itself, it will fall victim to whatever cuts are imposed in the automotive world.

The Toyota team enters it’s eighth season in Formula 1 in probably the best shape since the 2005 season, when Jarno Trulli was a regular podium visitor. But it badly needs a win to justify staying in the sport. Last year’s car was quick on smooth circuits like Magny Cours and Budapest, but was pretty inconsistent. However the team were more of a force towards the end of the season, despite McLaren, Ferrari and Renault all developing their cars right up to the end. This and the work over the winter has given Jarno Trulli and the management the confidence to talk about Toyota seeking its first win in F1.
So are they ready to win?

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Honda announced this morning that it is withdrawing from Formula 1. It is putting its team up for sale and will continue to fund the team for three months, but if no buyer is found by March then the team will be closed down.

There is a sense of shock in Japan about this. Apparently there have been rumours out there during the last week that Toyota was building up to make an announcement of this kind, but not Honda. All eyes are now on Toyota to see what their next move will be.

Honda president Fukui made the announcement in the early hours of this morning. My sources suggest that this was quite a sudden decision, despite rumours that all was not well at Honda. This is all about trade, or lack of it.

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