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Toyota – we must win or we're out
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Toyota – we must win or we're out
Posted By:   |  21 Jan 2009   |  5:24 pm GMT  |  7 comments

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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7 Comments
  1. Bradley says:

    The Newey comment intrigues me. You’ve said, “Adrian Newey has a pretty fantastic track record at interpreting new rules and finding an edge”.

    Does recent history bear this out?

    The last car he designed that challenged properly for a championship was the 2001 McLaren – which was still doing service in ’03, I think, as MP4/17D (although by then, developed by people other than Newey).

    He was too busy chasing theoretical perfection with the MP4/18 – which was a hugely costly, embarrassing cock-up. In fact, you could argue that it’s only in the last few years that McLaren have shed the Newey legacy and tried to design genuinely usable, drivable cars rather than ultimate aero machines.

    As for Red Bull, he has so far failed to deliver, hasn’t he? Yes, his design won a race in Monza, but only once he wasn’t part of the equation in setting-up and running the car. The RBR Newey machines have been very strong in the wet, but disappointing so far in the dry – and have never reconciled reliability and speed in a single package.

    I’d offer the thought that it’s a bit too easy to harp on about Newey’s impressive track record; you can in fact construct an argument that he peaked in 2000 and hasn’t done much since…

    Inflammatory, perhaps, but certainly a tenable argument.

  2. speedmerchants says:

    JA writes: You have a point, Bradley. Newey’s cars have not been both reliable and fast for a while, but I was referring to his ability at a time of significant rule changes, especially on the aero side, to come up with something innovative. This was particularly true of the Williams years, remember how he got around the high cockpit sides regulation, when the ’96 Ferrari looked like an armoured car?

    My point is that I will be interested to see how he interprets these new rules, mindful of the fact that he is long overdue a winning car (especially given the salary he’s been on since he left Williams in 1996.)

  3. Leon says:

    This is more a comment on the 8 engines per year rule. Seeing that most of the engines remain the same as last year, with no development allowed over the winter (except Renault who had the performance increase). Would a team be allowed to use an old engine from the previous year, in the event that all 8 of a driver’s engines fail during a year? Surely this would still satisfy the cost cutting need, in the sense that its a previously built engine, thus no additional costs to build it?

    I realize that the chassis probably changed significantly, but would it be worth designing your new car in such a way, that the previous engine still fits?

  4. Chris says:

    As you have said james it’s going to be really interesting finding out the pecking order. I’m a Kimi fan so I hope Ferrari do well, but I would love to see Williams back to the top where they belong.

    They are a team that exists on the basis of what all F1 teams should be. A group of people who decided they wanted to go racing. That should never change.

  5. Stewart says:

    Many F1 experts seem to be referring to the 2009 rule changes as the biggest since 1998. Given that the Newey designed Mclaren’s lapped the entire field at the first race of 1998, it might be worth putting a bit of money on a Red Bull one- two at Melbourne!

    And of course Vettel and Webber will be flying- Red Bull gives you wings!!!

  6. john g says:

    of course toyota have to win! how long have they been in it now – 8, 9 years? with consistently one of the highest budgets. as far as i’m concerned, they’ve already been an embarassment. another year without a win would cement the team as a failure – they have drawn a line as they needed to. perform or get out.

    personally, i can’t see it happening outside of a lucky result.

  7. Lady Snowcat says:

    The comments and demeanour of Jarno have not been very positive…

    I do hope he’s sand bagging but I fear not…

    Given that Williams have had an early advance from our Bernie… or is that actually Slavica?…. I hope they do have a good year….

    Actually if someone has identified a clear “golden bullet” for the new regs we could be in for a 2004 type season… but I hope not….

    It would not be good for the spectators…. or the more fragile commitment of the manufacturers either …..

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