During the last few races of the Formula 1 season, the eyes of the F1 world were shielded to the ugly side of the business. We had no court cases directly related to results, we had no he said she said, (except for Jarno Trulli running around like an idiot) and we had the bright flashy new Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi that I for one was very impressed with. Then the season ended and as the curtain came down, another came up that and behind it is a train wreck. Toyota has just added fuel to a seemingly out of control situation.
Toyota officially announced today that they will be leaving F1 effective immediately. This puts the number of teams down to 13 from the original 14. The team has opted to take the route the cool kids do and blame the economic downturn for their decision. Never mind that the team entered the sport in 2002 and has yet to win a race while also having the largest budget in the paddock…no that couldn’t be it at all. This is the problem with running a race team through a board room. In my opinion Toyota are making a massive mistake and really have nobody to blame but themselves. The failure of this program in all reality comes down to the driver selection. While touting the largest budget in the sport, the team was unwilling to spend money on a top end driver such as Kimi Raikkonen for example. Refusing to meet Kimi’s price would ensure they would not win a race in 2010 unless they were able to get another driver of equal talent. It is this senseless penny pinching that ended in them getting no results. As was proven with Fisichella and Ferrari, you cannot just put a subpar driver in a great car and expect results. One thing that needed to be done was the hiring of a driver that was fast and talented to pilot what was not a bad car. John Howett, the Toyota team boss, was all but certain that the Japanese squad was going to be on the grid in 2010 and even went out of his way to help Kamui Kobayashi into a seat next year. The last couple races for Toyota had proven to be a promising launch pad into 2010 only to have it pulled out from underneath them by corporate CEOs.
This latest pull out definitely shows a shift in power for F1 with privateer teams looking to make a comeback. The only problem is the other three really good manufacturers left. As the landscape changes from the pinnacle of motorsport to a more GP2 environment, Formula 1 needs to find a way to stop the bleeding. This should be a priority for new FiA President Jean Todt who is supposed to be a good business man. You must find a way to bring quality manufacturers into the sport. These smaller teams are not going to last long and we may be down to under 10 teams before too long. Toyota had the largest budget and still left for cost cutting reasons, what makes anybody so sure that a team like Campos or USF1 is going to make it 2 years?
During their stay in F1, Toyota racked up three pole positions, 13 podiums, and a best championship finish of fourth during the 2005 season. This puts Jarno Trulli on the market along with Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi as well. The Japanese outfit has indicated they will stay in motorsport but at a much lower level. I guess that is what they call NASCAR right? BMW Sauber has now been thrown back into the mix as a team on the grid for next season. The Hinwil based squad needed a team to fall out in order for them to take a spot on the grid. What is even more concerning is a board meeting at Renault to decide on their F1 future as well. The French team has stated a number of times that they are committed to the sport, but now that another team has fallen, this could be a good chance for them to bail as well given the huge amount of hardship that team has had to go through this year. These are truly dark days for F1.