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.
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.”