F1 07 review: Toyota

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ralf Schumacher, Toyora, Shanghai, 2007 | Toyota F1 MediaToyota may have ended the 2007 World Constructors’ Championship in sixth place, but it’s tempting to describe them as the worst team in the sport.

Having strode into F1 with virtually limitless funding five years ago they have accomplished little and show no promise of improvement in the future.

They had yet another middling season in 2007, and a team that achieves Toro Rosso results with Ferrari money is woefully under-performing.

The best and worst

Toyota became the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers in the first quarter of 2007. But you need more than billions in cash and vast expertise in volume car production to run effective Formula 1 team.

The press criticism of Toyota’s F1 effort has been so clear and consistent it’s beginning to sound clich??. But it remains true that they’re trying to run an F1 team like a corporation, and it just doesn’t seem to be working.

Decision making is too slow and too conservative. Group accountability rather than individual responsibility means that the safe path is always taken and innovation is shunned rather than embraced.

Think: have you ever seen Toyota try some radical new solution to a problem? A funny looking wing or a trick suspension setup? Probably not. – they even acquired Williams’ ‘seamless shift’ gearbox rather than develop their own.

Jarno Trulli, Toyora, Interlagos, 2007 | Toyota F1 MediaOf course part of the trade for that was that Williams could use the latest specification Toyota engines – with which they then soundly beat the parent company 33 points to 13.

Dropping their drivers

Perhaps the message is finally getting home. Ralf Schumacher is officially leaving the team after three years, having failed to do for the Japanese squad what his brother did for Ferrari. Schumacher blew hot and cold this year, slumping early on but improving briefly in the middle of the year, before tailing off again. He seemed back on form in Shanghai but retires after tone too many incidents including an ill-advised ‘shutting of the door’ on Vitanatonio Liuzzi.

Toyota (based in Cologne) have apparently been courting Nico Rosberg to replace Schumacher, but the German seems to have made it quite clear that he’s happier at Williams . As even Jarno Trulli might yet leave the team – despite his contract for next year – the team couldhave an entirely different look in 2008.

But is it the drivers that are the problem? Trulli, as ever, qualified well throughout 2007, often getting into the top ten and Schumacher joined him several times too. But they found the TF107 uncompetitive over race distances and particularly poor at getting away from the line – which is utterly crucial today.

There were more glaring errors, too, that would have embarrassed even the lowliest of teams. The drivers were instructed to avoid the high kerbing at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve as it provoked suspension failures…

The team are uninspiring and rudderless and that’s why, despite their pots of cash, they continue to disappoint and fail to attract the top drivers. Would anyone even mind if they weren’t there?

Photos: Toyota F1 Media

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