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Howett expects Toyota to race in 2010,but who will drive?
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Howett expects Toyota to race in 2010,but who will drive?
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Oct 2009   |  1:15 am GMT  |  10 comments

Toyota’s John Howett has been doing a bit of firefighting in the last couple of days after his team principal Tadashi Yamashina was quoted as saying that the company’s future in F1 was ‘unclear’.

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Toyota has been dogged by rumours that it may pull out at the end of the season. Earlier this year there was a political dimension to this; it suited some people to cast doubt on Toyota’s commitment. Generally there is no doubt that the sudden withdrawals of Honda last Christmas and BMW this summer have dented confidence within F1 circles in the manufacturers’ assurances of participation. Assurances are one thing, guarantees are another and in the absence of the latter the rumours will not go away. The fear of the team is that this will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

However Toyota has signed the Concorde Agreement, tying it in until 2012 and although Howett is not able to say with 100% certainty that the Toyota team will be in Bahrain next March, the team is carrying on with that goal in mind. There is no evidence to the contrary at the moment, only signals which are being interpreted as Toyota hedging its bets, such as releasing both drivers, not setting a budget until November and big cutbacks in other areas of Toyota’s business.

“I think his (Yamashima’s) position is that we should be here until 2012 and I think on the point of giving an absolute guarantee, I think he was just pragmatic in saying that you can never really give that, “Howett told Autosport.

Yesterday in the FIA press conference he added, “I expect to be back at Suzuka hopefully without the rain next year.”

As for the driver market, Toyota is chasing both Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica, but quick checks on this reveal that neither driver is likely to head there.

Kubica is expected to be announced shortly at Renault, as replacement for Fernando Alonso,
“I think the market is very fluid,” said Howett. “I think we have tried to be fair to the drivers to say that we may not have seats for them and therefore I think it is fair and transparent to do that. We remain in contact with both of them, particularly Timo (Glock). But I do feel there will be movements in the driver market, some movements even that people aren’t speculating about at the moment and therefore we want to be free to consider the best option for the team for next year. We think we will have a strong car and we want good results.”

I find this curious wording; ‘we remain in contact with both of them’ is surely a given, as they see each other on a daily basis at Grands Prix.

Part of the strategy here is something we are seeing across the board this year, which is the FOTA teams working hard to push driver salaries down.

Letting Glock and Trulli know that they are free to look around is backed up by an insistence that the retainers on offer are substantially lower than previously. Both men know that, assuming Toyota continue, it would be their best option.

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10 Comments
  1. Jonathan says:

    Of course Howitt is going to talk down the possibility of his getting a P45. Toyota F1 is gearing down to closing up shop, this much is obvious from the fact that they have released both drivers. How could they possibly justify millions of dollars on Raikkonen or Kubica? I would be shocked if the board eeks out a budget in November for 2010.

  2. Paige Michael-Shetley says:

    Toyota has to be nuts if they think they have a realistic shot at Raikkonen or Kubica, or if they think that top drivers would be “foolish” to not consider them.

    This is a team that has spent untold billions since they joined F1 and still have yet to win a race. How can they justify saying that top drivers would be “crazy” not to consider them if they have such a track record?

    They’ve got a good driver in Glock, who has arguably had race pace as good as anyone this year. He’s improved each year he’s been in F1, and he can improve still. They can’t get anyone on the market better than him.

  3. F1 Kitteh says:

    All the stuff around Toyota lately is quite bizzare .. seems like they have been in the news more times last week than the last 9 years combined !

    It would seem for both drivers their best option is to take a cut and stay, but what about on a 2-3 yr horizon? Would it be better to go with a Willis or Gascogne new setup as they have better records for success ?

  4. gary Bridle says:

    I am getting a bit tired of all the attention put on Toyota and the possibility of its withdrawl. No such a severe a scrutiny on others and yet we have BMW gone no suspision was even raised. Renault must have a question mark with no major sponsor and the company being in a much more dire position than Toyota financially. It seems the british and european press are willing them to go. The sport needs these big manufacturers we should be encouraging them not continually harassing and headlining miss quotes just to get a headline

  5. Simon A says:

    James,

    John Howett is deluded if he thinks Toyota will get one of the big boys. No record of building a good consistent car, and even with the diffuser head start this year they are nowhere. John’s blaming the drivers reading his comments on autosport.

    Also in the article he says the drivers they are targetting would be stupid not to go there. As I said deluded.

    When this guy speaks my skin crawls. Can’t bring myself to trust a word he says and now he’s clearly on a different planet, maybe he should try to stage another walkout like he did at the FOTA/FIA meeting at Heathrow. Clearly his peers didn’t respect him that much then either.

    I think this will be the last year for Toyota, and this is just bluster to motivate the troops and generate media coverage to see out the year.

    1. F1 Kitteh says:

      Or to get yourself in the papers for the home race. Hey he *might* be telling the truth but if you are a Kimi, I suspect you might not want to take the risk of suddenly finding out in December that your employer just quit…. I think Bernie got it right when he said once that Howett just looks puzzled and has no idea whats going on, as usual. He’s a corporate guy who’s first priority is his own job, you think he cares about you or me or F1???

  6. Cabby says:

    “I find this curious wording; ‘we remain in contact with both of them’ is surely a given, as they see each other on a daily basis at Grands Prix.”

    He probably means they stay in contact with their agents, who will do the negotiating.

  7. Glen Slagg says:

    I honestly can’t believe that Toyota will make it to next season. Now that their big rival Honda has gone, they really have nothing to stick around for.
    And when the team themselves sound unsure, I would say that they are definitely history – because past experience shows F1 teams usually make a huge effort to hush these things up. Therefore, if negatives noises are actually escaping from Toyota, they must really be in the poo.
    John Howett’s words don’t sound terribly confident, either.
    What’s the price for dropping out of the sport now? $50M? It still has to be cheaper than flushing money down the drain in Cologne.

  8. Werewolf says:

    Even if Toyota survives in F1 the only certainty is a considerable budget cut. This must make it impossible to guarantee salaries for top drivers. Even Raikkonen, who could presumably race for nothing next year (if Ferrari are really paying him his contracted figure) is only going to drive for less than his market value if he perceives a really strong shot at another title, which is not how many would view a berth at Toyota.

    The most likely possibility of a top driver, in my uninformed opinion, is if Button can keep Brawn dangling until November, by which time Barrichello will probably need to have committed to Williams, and then move to Toyota if they can offer a better deal.

  9. Formula says:

    Regardless of what many of you believe or think, fact is Toyota is not leaving and will definitely be on the grid next year.

    It’s funny how their is so much media focus on Toyota, yet nothing on Renault. It’s all politics. The fact is Renault is much more likely to leave the sport than toyota.

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