Some unfinished business
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Toyota under pressure to deliver
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Toyota under pressure to deliver
Posted By:   |  02 Jun 2009   |  3:38 pm GMT  |  14 comments

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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14 Comments
  1. Howard Hughes says:

    It somewhat pains me that Toyota are the perennial overspending underachievers, for this is categorically not what they represent in other fields. Whilst their road cars are seldom the stuff of dreams (although Lexus is a genuinely fantasic brand, regardless of what Mr Clarkson may opine) their management style is awe-inspiring. Far from being the lumbering metaphorical supertanker struggling to turn, as a manufacturer Toyota’s ‘way’ has been as vital a methodology latterly as Henry Ford’s was formerly.

    So I genuinely wish they could perform better in F1. I’m not sure what can be done now though – changing the drivers perhaps (one suspects that an Alonso or Vettel could perhaps drag the arse of the cars further up the standings), or maybe relocating and buying a nice factory in Northampton’s ‘F1 valley’ to tap into the true flow of talent could bolster their efforts…

    Or maybe it’s too late and ennui has set in. But I don’t relish seeing them flounder, and I dislike when they become an easy target for those critical of large budgets or corporations seeking to excel in the sport. Toyota has never needed F1, not for a minute. They chose to enter motorsport at its very highest level, to compete with the best, and whilst they haven’t managed to succeed, I suspect they have rather more passion for F1 than many realise or give them credit for…

  2. rpaco says:

    Yeah but that guy Yaris is great value for money! ;-)

  3. michael c says:

    Great – and sympathetic – comments Howard – you don’t work for Toyota do you? (only joking!).

    I echo the comments re the cars and the company – and Jarno seems a real gent in particular – but the whole exercise seems a mirror of Honda albeit with (until Ross Brawn) a performance level much closer to the best of the field – but ultimately it seems the team (again like Honda) do not seem to produce whatever combination of chemistry and or organisation that is needed to succeed in F1 – and it is surely a (now short) matter of time before the board withdraws – perhaps they should bequeath it for their last year to Mike Gascoyne or David Richards

  4. Roberto says:

    They have had huge resources over the years and never have been in a position to realy figth for a win.

    As James said they were easy the second best team during the pre season tests, but somehow they lost the development battle, somewhere around, either they stopped spending or simply they lack the engineering expertise to keep the level of the other teams and frankly they don’t have the drivers who can realy push the development of the car. Trulli is a good qualifyer no doubts; but that’s it, only a single lap, and Glock doesn’t have shown he belong up there with the best drivers, some shining moments, but that’s it.

    Now that costs will be trimmed they need to look on the market for key people and drivers, they could keep Glock, but they need a proven winner to get there and stay in F1 business

  5. Spenny says:

    What appears to come out of the starting weight stats and pitstops is that the Achilles Heel of Toyota, and therefore Williams, is the fuel consumption of the Toyota engine is extremely poor – perhaps 20% down on other teams.

    When you note that both Williams and Toyota have tended to be good in practice, good in qualifying and then fail to deliver in the race it makes sense.

    It also suggests, if this analysis is the case, that Toyota and Williams are doomed by their engine due to the freeze.

    Some of the guys at Pitlane Fanatic has been working through some of the race stats to see what they can divine about it.

    http://www.pitlanefanatic.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=965

  6. ChainTrap says:

    I don’t think that it’s fair to doubt Toyota’s commitment to motorsport, from world rallying to Pike’s Peak via Nascar, Toyota have been involved in top class motorsport for a good while. Whether they are prepared to continue in F1 without any success, is another matter. And here I could quite easily see them going.

    Like Mr Hughes, I don’t relish watching them struggle – but they are clearly very fast on the fast circuits. I find it quite interesting that Toyota and MacLaren seem to have very many of the same issues at the same circuits.

  7. Alistair Blevins says:

    To me Toyota are the least exciting team on the grid. They lack any kind of sparkle or charisma. I see nothing but a well-oiled marketing and PR machine, underpinned by a mediocre race-team that has failed to capture the accolades or adoration of the F1 community, despite a guargantuan budget.

    Despite their objections (and mine!) I believe they would actually do better under the 2010 FIA-proposed budget cap and regulations as it would allow them to trim the excesses and red-tape which appears to be stiffling their progress.

  8. Gary says:

    I find it interesting how people continue to talk about the huge budgets of toyota when i would suspect that ferrari Mclaren Bmw and possible even Renault would have been similar and when you take into account the team had to be established I think this is a line i am tyring of . I have not heard much about the dismal performance of BMW this year when they have spent more developement time than any other team aside from Brawn/Honda on this years car.
    It certainly seems the tf109 has a weekness in slow corners and Turkey will be a better test to not only see where toyota are but also BMW.
    As for lexus Merc and bmw road cars Lexus build quality engineering and reliability is second to none of these in my humble opinion.

  9. K' Ro says:

    As a Honda fan myself wistfully daydreaming of what-could-have-beens, I remain sardonic, actually hoping Toyota get’s close but stays out of reach (go Brawn!) and bows out without ever getting that victory…passion for F1? puhleease.. a brilliant marketing company yes, but perennially jealous of lil brother Honda’s racing and engineering accomplishments….

  10. Sinker says:

    But don’t forget that this is the company that brought us the Prius, and that’s the biggest con in motoring history.

    Don’t get me wrong, though, Toyota cars are very good (Prius aside) but they’re not awe inspiring. Lexus as a brand has done exceptionally well to be likened alongside BMW, Audi et al in such a short of amount of time (pointing to excellent management to bring everything together) but they always seems to fall a little short in execution against those it’s attempting to compete against. The IS220 Diesel proves that they can make errors of judgement or of design. For Lexus, the Toyota way leave the cars wanting.

    Back to F1 and the impact is the same; expectations are higher than delivery, even with the Toyota brand, not Lexus. The bottom line is that they are good, reliable, but not awe inspiring, they make mistakes and aren’t always ready with a decent follow through.

    I’m hoping that Toyota will stay in F1 though, becoming more competitive and that the Prius will die a painful death. Unfortunately the opposite is more likely to happen.

  11. Howard Hughes says:

    Have to say I disagree re the ‘execution’ of the Lexus… My dad’s is a demonstrably better car than my mum’s Merc, my BMW and, dare I say it, my gf’s dad’s Bentley… Honestly, superb.

  12. Brog says:

    Wow !that’s really good stuff .. who would’ve though that there could potentially be such a big difference between the teams ..

    It’s not looking for for Toyota to win a race using those figures

  13. Alistair Blevins says:

    It’s a valid point, but I suspect the reason why Toyota is singled out constantly is because it is rumoured to have a budget second only to Ferrari, possibly more. What’s worse that it has only managed to conjure up a handful of podium positions.

    During that time, BMW have at least proved their competitiveness and won a race – on a much smaller budget – and have a driver widely regarded to be as good as the guys at the sharp end of the grid.

    The problem I fear is that Toyota are perceived to have no soul and thus don’t reap a great deal of sympathy.

    Maybe if they showed a bit more heart-on-the-sleeve people would warm to them more…

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