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Toyota pullout starts shivers in F1, now Renault discussing possible exit
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Toyota pullout starts shivers in F1, now Renault discussing possible exit
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Nov 2009   |  7:37 pm GMT  |  45 comments

The double whammy of Bridgestone and Toyota’s withdrawal from F1 is sending shivers down the spine of F1.

ToyotaMalaysia_036
Today Renault held a scheduled meeting to discuss its future participation in F1. It appears that there will be no communication about the outcome of that meeting until later in the week. French colleagues tell me that they do not expect Renault to pull out, but there is a panicky feeling in the air, as there was after Honda withdrew last Christmas.

The BBC is reporting that acting team principal Bob Bell and managing director Jean Francois Caubet attended the meeting but were not allowed to participate. For Robert Kubica these will be anxious times. He recently signed a deal with Renault and has already suffered one manufacturer’s sudden decision to withdraw this year with BMW.

The Japanese companies’ withdrawal is the first major crisis for new FIA president Jean Todt to deal with. This afternoon the FIA put out a statement which said that the developments were “a concern” and added,

“Toyota’s decision..comes just weeks after its F1 team signed the new Concorde Agreement until 2012.

“Urgent clarification is now being sought from the Toyota F1 team as to its legal position in relation to the championship. This will have a direct bearing on the admission of any future 13th entry.”

My understanding is that Sauber is being told that Toyota is not going to merely give up its entry. Instead it is examining the possibility of selling the entry, or of John Howett leading a Ross Brawn-style management buyout. The employees of Toyota’s F1 factory in Cologne are being paid up to the end of February.

Meanwhile FOTA also issued a statement today which laid some of the blame for Toyota’s withdrawal on the conduct this season of outgoing FIA president Max Mosley,

“Regrettably, notwithstanding Toyota’s commitment to compete until 2012 deriving from the signature of the Concorde Agreement, the particular financial pressures within the car manufacturing industry – together with a period of uncertainty and unnecessary confrontation in F1 that is now finally over – created conditions which have made it difficult for Toyota to stay in the sport at this time.”

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45 Comments
  1. Nicollers says:

    Seeing pictures of Toyota Motor Corp president Akio Toyoda booing his eyes out, shows this is a decision Toyota reluctantly had to take.

    It’s a real shame for many reasons, but especially so for Kamui Kobayashi. This guy looks like he has real talent. Let’s hope that if Sauber do get the Toyota berth, Kobayashi is snapped up quickly….

    1. DistraChi says:

      From all the pics i’ve seen, i think it was Tadashi Yamanashi that got emotional. Aiko Toyoda looked okay to me.

      I hope Toyota return one day. Maybe next time partnering with an existing team, and eventually taking them over. Somewhat like BMW’s original plan before it all went wrong in 2009.

      1. Jeremy says:

        it all went wrong with they wanted their own team. they had a good partnership with Williams until they became greedy.

        manufacturers need to stick with engine deals only.

      2. Nicollers says:

        My bad, it was Tadashi Yamanashi! Sorry….

    2. CD says:

      I always thought Toyota were a bit dull and boring, but I’m sad to see them go. They’ve just realised they have Star quality in Kobayashi and a car with potential.I’d be crying too.
      I wonder how much money they wasted on Ralf?

  2. Scott says:

    I guess that the major difference between BMW pulling out and Toyota pulling out is that Toyota signed the Concorde agreement, and therefore any buyer of the Toyota team buys that signature, and therefore gets priority on the grid over ex-BMW… So this isn’t good news for ex-BMW at all. This “14th slot” business really is meaningless, and the buyers of BMW really did waste their money, and BMW have screwed them over big style!

    Have all the new teams signed the Concorde agreement?? If so, then surely there will never be a free slot for ex-BMW to move into, as if any team were to pull out, they’d probably try to sell it as a going concern with the benefits of having a guaranteed place on the grid with the signed agreement?

  3. Jim, Belfast says:

    James, whats your thoughts on the importance of manufacturer teams? How much does F! “need” them?

    I would just be concerned that private teams like Manor, Campos etc would come and go all too often a bit like Super Aguri, and as nice as it is to see new teams, im not sure how good it would be to see 2 or 3 new ones every year.

    1. George says:

      Manufacturers are just as bad as independant teams when it comes to leaving suddenly. Remember Alfa Romeo, Jaguar(AKA Ford), Spyker(ok, not a massive manufacturer), Honda in both their terms, probably a bunch more too. Personally I think the sport can do without these massive companies throwing their weight around all the time.
      Toyota was always a bit of a misfit anyway, as far as I know they weren’t involved in the sport before they joined with their team, while Honda and BMW had both been engine suppliers.

  4. Olivier says:

    Has Ferrari – sorry, FOTA – read the Toyota statement?

    F1 has become out of touch with the world, the planet and the people. Not surprisingly, the 2009 F1 season ended in darkness. Millions of Leds are not going to change that.

    F1 does have a future however. But it will and has to be green. Unfortunately, the 2010 season will be a step backwards regarding the ban on energy recovery systems …

    Jean Todt has a huge task ahead of him. I wish him a warm winter & a merry Xmas. Hopefully he can bring common sense to the Ferrari management.

    1. George says:

      KERS was never a very good idea for road cars, and it’s not banned anyway, FOTA just decided between themselves not to use it.

      F1 has been struggling to become more environmentally friendly for a while, they use biofuel for example. There’s a limit to what they can do though and still keep the sport respectable.

  5. Filippo says:

    Last year the larger manufacturers were significantly damaged by having to cope with arbitrary budget cuts while at the same time being told that smaller teams would not be obliged to take on board the Kers the “rich” teams had been persuaded to develop.

    Moreover, the smaller teams were told they could proceed with alternative developments clearly not in the spirit of the regulations and which gave them a significant competitive advantage.

    It could be argued that Brawn was handed the title after race 2 and that only extraordinary efforts and investments by the likes of McLaren (perhaps obliged to show willing after their own series of corporate embarrassements) made the rest of the championship appear somewhat credible.

    Perhaps F1 SHOULD become a smaller, less expensive sport, but the strategy the F1 leadership chose to obtain that end has resulted in catastrophic losses for some companies and untold damage to their brands in key markets.

    On top of this, there was even the decision to use previously undisclosed evidence of alleged irregularities in order to settle old scores and remove senior players from the Fota table.

    I feel sorry for the Toyota, Honda, BMW and Renault personnel who have suffered the consequences. The Concorde Agreement had offered the premise for a vastly different future: one indeed, in which the manufacturers might have become key stakeholder, even dare I say net beneficiaries, in a sport that until now has seen them simply as blind investors.

    Perhaps the F1 of tomorrow will be a no-manufacturer formula, who knows, but it would be nice if Jean Todt & his team were to decide to be more forthcoming with his real vision for the sport. And I believe it should be up to blogs like this to insist on such openness with the sport’s real fan base.

  6. jw1980 says:

    James,

    do you really think that a new team could emerge from the ashes of Toyota? It would be an enormous undertaking for anyone because Toyota were so huge. In addition Toyota was not an independent team taken over by a manufacturer like Brawn and Sauber. Does the location of Germany work against a new team emerging as well? Redundancies are going to run in the many millions.
    Going with Sauber would be a safer bet.
    Finally James what of the grand prixs themselves? If manufacturers, sponsors and suppliers are pulling out how long will it be before the likes of China and Turkey say we are not prepared to pay such high fees to Bernie?
    There is still a great future for F1 but careful decision making over the next few months are required starting with the British GP, an event the sport can rely on….

  7. jw1980 says:

    Next year’s line up still looks very exciting. You could group the teams in to four groups. At the head of field I would put the following:-
    Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull
    Second group would be:-
    Brawn, Renault (if they continue) and Williams
    Third group would be:-
    Force India, Sauber (if they compete) and STR
    The final group would consist of the new teams.
    Of course amongst this lot a major team will perform poorer than expected whilst a new team may surprise.
    A lot to look forward to still. In addition having been to many GPs it was very noticeable when the grid fell to 20 cars. It will be great to see 26 cars race by on lap one again! Lets indeed hope that we have 26 cars next year.

  8. jed says:

    I have always believed that there is no room for manufacturers of regular cars in F1 as a works team as racing is not their main business. It would be more financially wise for manufacturers to support F1 teams rather than build their own. This way they get the same exposure at less the cost, headaches and etc. that goes with racing.
    After making their own race teams these manufacturers are starting to realize it now. This is the best time to quit as they have all the excuses to do so. However I am confident that the manufacturers will be back in a different role such as engine suppliers or suppliers of components in line with the up-and -coming green theme that F1 will be in the future as outlined by the fia.

    I see these events as good for the sport as a whole as time will come when the manufacturers wil partner-up with existing teams as an engine supplier or some other capacity for the sole purpose of marketing their product while the team they are partnering up with is there with the purpose of racing.

    Maybe some other specialty car manufacturer like ferrari might join F1 or some f1 teams might make their own specialty car like what mclaren has done and is doing again.

    In the end things will work out. F1 will not die, it will only get better.

  9. Matt W says:

    As always James, it looks like you are one step ahead of everyone as the common consensus seems that the Renault meeting was more of a rollocking than pulling the plug.

    I really want to see more of Kobayashi. He can only be compared against the other replacement drivers that we have seen this year and he is head and shoulders above them.

  10. Jorge Moreira da Costa says:

    People who opposed the £40 mil cap proposal still think it was a bad idea?

    1. Cliff says:

      The £40m cap was never a bad idea. It was how it was to be imposed and monitored by the FIA. There was no consultation,just a take it or leave from Max. Also, I believe that it meant that the teams would have to open up their books to the FIA. I suspect many companies outside F1 would have a problem with that side of the deal! Williams and Force India signed up to it for various reasons, but you should also remember that this is the sort of deal they would need to remain in F1, not to mention any existing contracts they have that locks them into FOM & the FIA. So yes, £40m cap – good idea, implentation badly handled.

  11. PaulL says:

    What of the promising Kamui Kobayashi?

    To Renault? I’m sure he’d rather had a Japanese team, but in Renault’s case I think he’d be a better option than Grosjean or any of the other rookies or Slowvalainen.

  12. Roberto says:

    I think even if TOYOTA never achieved a win or really being a strong contender, they were a house name in F1 already, after all pullouts, Toyota`s one seems uncomprehensible, specially after John Howett`s positions and speech during this year conflicts with the FIA.

    I can understand Toyota has seen a huge sales drop like nobody in the industry, but a platform like F1 for marketing that is only compared with the olympic games and the FIFA world cup, therefore i think the desicion was made for a simple reason “why still invest a huge ammount of money in this critical time in something were we haven`t been successful”

  13. Chris says:

    James, if Renault didn’t want an exit would they call such a meeting? Do you suspect they are about to jump on the bandwagon, and why o why don’t manufactures stay on as engine suppliers and help the sport they are so quick to quit?

  14. Dan says:

    I think Toyota can be forgiven for taking this decision, considering the amount of money they have put in they have actually contributed a lot to F1 minus the wins they wanted…

    I will concede that the board interfered too much, but that could also be accounted to the lack of success the team was having in the first place! Clashing with Gascoyne was a mistake but really it was one of few… The team was just not good enough during the boom period of Toyota Motor Corporation to justify keeping them open when the bust came…

    Mr Toyoda’s tears really spoke of how embarrassing it must be for a proud and good company like Toyota to pull out of something that put them along with real great motorsport names like Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Renault (although they couldn’t quite join them in the winners circle!)

    I can see them taking advantage of the Hybrid-appreciating Le Mans rules and building a KERS/HERS Hybrid Sports car that can mix it with the best Audi and Peugeot can offer… It’s production-relevant, it’s big in Japan and it fits Toyota’s pioneering Hybrid image…

  15. Denny says:

    The situation is unfortunate, I feel Mr. Mosley vision was correct, bring the cost down to create equity on the playing field.

    I get tired of the remarks coming from the Ferrari camp. Their message seems to imply ‘Let’s change the rules so Ferrari can win.’ I love Ferrari, but it needs to remain mute and allow Jean Todt to put excitement on the trak with 26 nearly equal cars.

    2009 was a good season, from track to track different teams woluld shine. But there’s still one fundamental problem with the track action itself. That would be a lack of wheel to wheel racing, with lots of lead changes each event. The days of Stewart, Rindt & Ickx or the performances of Giles Villenue and Rene Arnou in their classic battle in France, touching wheels, what 3 times in the final laps. That was F-1 at it best and is where it need to go.

  16. Paul Moss says:

    What’s the point of the Concorde agreement then? Or is there a out-clause with compensation to the other parties?

  17. Tim says:

    These are volatile times there’s no doubt. This is an unfortunate corrolary of teams being owned by manufacturers. When difficult times come, then the entire future of the team, workforce and their families is at risk. In the instance of Honda, Toyota, BMW and potentially Renault the team is actually simply another business unit, which has to justify its existance. A motor manufacturer’s raison d’etre is to make and sell road vehicles; for an independent team its to make and race F1 cars. If the manufacturers simply supplied engines, then any pullout, although difficult to manage, need not be catastrophic.

    Many teams and individuals have benefitted very well financially from the golden age of manufacturer involvement. This is the downside of such onwership. Maybe we’re about to see a return to the older business model of independent team with engine supply.

  18. Adron Gardner says:

    Ferrari sells only 6,000 cars a year and they can afford F1.

    Spec tires, spec engines, spec wings. No Testing.

    I think whatever costs may be running rampant, the FIA’s spec NASCAR formula deserves their share of blame for running off teams.

    1. Andy says:

      there is a slight difference in price of a bottom of the range Ferrari to a bottom of the range Yaris!

  19. Tom Fox says:

    The teams should have accepted the 40 million limit. From the outside, it looks like this whole palava could have been avoided if that agreement was made. Although I am sure that there are a million things that I don’t know.

  20. Smellyden says:

    Yes he looks like a real exciting talent!

  21. Bill Tabas says:

    Thank you James. Perhaps the only Leaders in the pitlane there to race for the sake of racing are people like Frank Williams, Stephano Dominicalli, Ross Brawn, Peter Sauber and Ron Dennis (I know he’s moved on, but he’s there). Other people close by who are racing leaders are Michael Schumacher, Eddie Jordan (yes Eddie Jordan). If only they had the funds to run their own team we would be less reliant on car corporations who come with their huge management structures, beauracracy, marketing strategies, processes and ultimately failure and exit strategies. There is some sense in this dont you think? For example, would Ken Tyrell have wasted a year and a chassis on an ‘Earth Car’?

  22. Harveyeight says:

    Much as the decision is to be abhorred by those of us who are F1 fans, you have to say that the decision is understandable. All but inevitable.

    It is like a pool that is draining. Toyota, one of the big frogs, has left, to be followed by Renault. Soon there will be just the one frog left, king of a drying puddle.

    F1 brings in most of the FIA’s money. It is bad enough at the moment for races like China where no one turns up but, if the rumours are correct, we are going to have a race series made up of Ferrari and McLaren with the remaining teams being difficult for those not nerdish to name. Most would not even have heard of them. That’s if they can get any tyres of course.

    Mosley never made any secret for his wish of a spec F1. A sort of F2 but with a few more spectators. And that is the way we seem to be headed. So who will supply the engine, transmission and chassis for this ersatz series. What will it benefit Ferrari if they win the bidding war? Mercedes cannot gain much from a series run in stadia empty of spectators and Mum’s Apple Pie.

    If Formula 1 is of limited interest to the big manufacturers then the same lethargy might overcome the spectators and viewing public.

    Abu Dhabi’s most exciting period was waiting for the lights to come on around the hotel. There were a few laps at the beginning that were interesting and the last three were pretty good but the bit in the middle was dire.

    Next season we will have cars with names that are not familiar in the mouth at circuits with no excitement. And there might be football on the other side.

    The value of F1 to these big circuit builders is in the hype. Mosley reckoned that he could not depend on the manufacturers. Does he think he can depend on China and the Middle and Far East to continue their commitment when on one bothers to switch on their TV?

    And even if they do, all they will see is a sort of glorified Clio Cup run under hotel lights. That’s going to keep them coming back for more.

    I won’t see a GP next year as it is unlikely that Silverstone can afford to put their signature on a contract for any period as the product is becoming less and less valuable. It is almsot a case of run what you brung.

    F1 is not at the top of the motor racing table as of right. If, as seems possible, Toyota return to closed-wheel racing, and BMW, Renault and Honda decide to compete as well then it will become the lead and a draw to Ferrari as well. McLaren, with their move to sports car manufacturer, will perhaps regard victory at Le Mans as a more important marketing exercise than beating a drinks firm.

    Sports car racing used to vie with F1 in the old days for the lead. F1 has a much superior package, one that fits in nicely with the requirements of television. But 40+ on the grid with different classifications means a lot more overtakes for the casual viewer to enjoy, and a picture of the leader coming along the straight at Abu Dhabi, the only vehicle in view, will be an impossibility.

    Todt had his work cut out just trying to resurrect WSC, WTC and the WRC. Instead he has now to concentrate of F1 given its importance to the finances of the FIA. I feel sure that the ACO does not want a war with the FIA but it hasn’t been in such a strong position for ages.

    Under Mosley’s stewardship all the major race series have collapsed. Whilst some of us, me included, had hopes for F1 it would appear we were wrong. It’s strength seems now to be ephemeral.

    No overtaking, no Honda, no BMW, no Toyota, no Renault, no tyres, no big names and no draw. Not much of an epitaph.

    1. john g says:

      totally agree. F1 to go from having 6 big manufacturers to potentially 2, in as many years is going to be a big shock, and cannot fail to devalue F1. so mclaren and ferrari beat campos meta, or team america. so what? they’ll race boring races in countries with no interest. and for what?

      it’s a mistake to thinking that it’s fantastic that the manufacturers are leaving en mass, and letting independants in. they are simply jumping from a sinking ship. and it’s the FIA rather than them, that’s in control.

      i really do see some other form of racing becoming the top flight in the next 5 years. you need manufacturers for public interest. FIA series WRC, WTCC, BTCC etc have seen manufacturers leave. and what’s happened to audience figures? if it carries on teh way it’s going, F1 will have withered in a few years, and if it happens, i won’t miss what it will have become.

  23. garyp says:

    As soon as Williams anounced they were looking for an engine supply a year early it was obvious to me. It was Toyotas only outside commitment.

    In business if no-one is buying you cut costs and the first to go is wages, non profitable liabilities and advertising. F1 was just a huge advert really AND non profitable Toyota didn’t get any kudos from it as they were always stated as the ones with the biggest budget who had won nothing. So as the saying goes ‘cut your losses’.

    1. James Allen says:

      The withdrawal from the Japanese GP contract for Fuji was a giveaway too.

  24. F1 Kitteh says:

    Howett leading a buyout with Kimi and Kubica driving…. and I am Santa Claus. Please go back to selling SUVs it’s a lot easier job.

  25. Michael says:

    Toyota was so strongly opposed the budget cap idea so I don’t see the financial crisis as as the reason. I think Toyota is used to making billions and now they are losing billions. Just like when people start seeing their money disappear the first thing they look for is the fluff in their lives to cut it out. Racing was not the core business for Toyota. They make inexpensive but good qualify cars for the masses. So it was an easy decision in where to cut. We need more car companies that are centered on racing and not wannabes. Toyota and Honda were just wannabes and they realized after many years that they could not compete with the big boys.

  26. Peter Jones says:

    James,
    I’m sorry to see another team go and for all the people who are going to lose their jobs, but I have to say that Toyota were really a textbook example of how not to run an F1 team. From basing themselves in Germany and their restrictive labor laws to not having top-flight drivers to their management style of running the team, they really only have themselves to blame for their shortcomings.
    Do you agree or disagree?

    Hopefully they can be rescued in the same manor as Brawn GP.

    1. Jeremy says:

      the ironic part of these comments criticizing the board is TTE has been highly successful in other categories. Can we really blame the board for their fumbled 8 years? Why has TTE been able to have continued success in sports car and WRC from the same outfit with the same board to answer too?

  27. Michael Gray says:

    I for one am sad to see teams run by the car manufactures, leave F1. I think the real reason why they are choosing to leave is the uncertainty with ongoing costs and the return of that investment in F1. It is not the amount of money F1 costs, but the continual change in rules and regulations, as well as the continual change in racing venues. I think when Bernie comes out and says that Silverstone have 48 hours to decide if they want a British GP or not, it only makes manufactures re-evaluate their position. I think both Max and Bernie’s games, with both FOTA, and the venues, over the last few years are the reasons manufactures are leaving the sport.

  28. Luke Dalton says:

    and as I said when bmw pulled the plug, good riddance! another team..no make that business, more bothered about monday morning boardroom meetings than sunday race day, thats why they never really succeeded. oh how they protested that they wanted to keep on blowing money, and its bit them on the backside. bring on the true racers – the privateers.

  29. Monktonnik says:

    And who was that? Oh yes that would be John Howett of Toyota.

  30. Julian says:

    Surely the driver market should remain stalemate until Renault make their decision about their future? There’s no way Robert Kubica should be without a drive for 2010!

  31. Steve says:

    Interesting few months ahead when we have a raft of teams that have a licences to race but we are not sure that they will make the grade and we have a team who are definitely able to race, have history and capability but made the mistake of not signing the Concord agreement.

    The situation F1 is in is one of turning away teams who can race and risking slots on those that might race… weird

  32. Brace says:

    I can’t figure out how come “Lotus” was selected instead of Sauber for an extra slot?

  33. Olivier says:

    Renault could easily do a Mercedes with RBR. I wonder why the Mercedes business model has not been adopted by the other manufacturers?: No fuzz about sustaining an elaborate workforce. Just focus on the engine and make it as economical & powerful as possible. Let the teams do the racing.

    I am quite excited by the prospect of no refuelling. The cars with the most economical engine will have the smallest fuel tank and thus be the slimmest, lightest & the most aerodynamic!

    On a side note: I wouldn’t like to see Webber being replaced by Kubica.

  34. Tim L says:

    Max gets his way one last tiem

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