The team mate debates: Toyota

Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis led the British GP for Toyota in 2003

Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis led the British GP for Toyota in 2003

With the first signs of the silly season getting started for 2010, I thought it would be a good time to start a new series of Friday debates on the subject of team driver pairings.

Starting today, we?σΤιΌΤδσll look at each of the teams and ask at which point in their history did they have their strongest driver line-up?

First up, one of Formula 1?σΤιΌΤδσs youngest teams: Toyota.

Toyota?σΤιΌΤδσs driver line-ups, 2002-2009

These are the drivers Toyota had at the start of each season they contested:

2002 ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ Mika Salo, Allan McNish
2003-2004 ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ Olivier Panis, Cristiano da Matta
2005-2007 ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli
2008-2009 ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock

Toyota also changed its line-up late in 2004, when Ricardo Zonta briefly joined the team and Jarno Trulli arrived early ahead of his 2005 signing.

But when did they have their strongest driver pairing?

Which was the best?

There was widespread surprise late in 2002 when Toyota ditched the partnership of long-time F1 driver Mika Salo and sportscar ace Allan McNish. Both have continued to have successful careers in sportscars.

Their replacements, Olivier Panis and CART champion Cristiano da Matta, achieved little besides briefly leading the 2003 British Grand Prix. The team paid huge money to partner Jarno Trulli with Ralf Schumacher ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ prompting some to jokingly asked if they?σΤιΌΤδσd realised which Schumacher they were getting for their money.

However it did prove their most enduring partnership and ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ on paper at least ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ their most successful. But how much was that down to Toyota producing one of their race decent F1 cars in 2005?

Trulli is now in his fifth season with the team and paired with the ever-improving Timo Glock. It?σΤιΌΤδσs been a strange season for the pair: locking out the front row at Bahrain, bringing up the rear at Monaco.

My pick

I thought the Salo-McNish pairing had great potential and was disappointed to see them dropped. Trulli and Ralf Schumacher were both somewhat mercurial talents and neither consistently had the upper hand over the other season to season or, often, race to race.

Toyota?σΤιΌΤδσs current line-up has potential to be even better. Glock has potential ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ he shone in the wet at Sepang this year and took an excellent second at the Hungaroring in 2008.

Right now, I?σΤιΌΤδσd plump for Trulli-Schumacher as my top pick, but in a few races?σΤιΌΤδσ time I might have a very different opinion.

Which do you think was Toyota?σΤιΌΤδσs best driver line-up?

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39 comments on The team mate debates: Toyota

  1. Gman said on 28th May 2009, 21:15

    The current lineup is the only one i’ve known since beginning to follow the sport- I think it has a great deal of potential, but the guys need the car to be good to be successful.

    Also, don;t forget that any success depends on Toyota’s future in the sport as a team as well.

  2. Sush Meerkat said on 28th May 2009, 21:22

    I’m gonna go with Trulli Glock, I dislike Ralf, but one thing about him…. incredibly loyal, didn’t he ask a journo to stop being so nasty about “his” team, speaking about Toyota.

    You can’t buy that sort of marketing, a genuine request to the media.

    For that he went up in my books, unfortunatly he gained too much weight and couldn’t handle an F1 car in his later career.

    On topic, Glock, that kid is something else, he’s my sister’s fav driver since she saw his two crashes, at melbourne and was it germany when he slammed into the pitwall? She can’t believe someone can survive that sort of impact. And I do think for technically a rookie, his capacity for racecraft his bang on…. he’ll smash a race, i’m sure of it

    • It is true that he asked Matt Bishop to stop being so negative about Toyota in mid-2007 and made it a condition of participating in a photoshoot. If I remember correctly, the response from Matt was rather impolite…

  3. Sush Meerkat said on 28th May 2009, 21:24

    I think it has a great deal of potential, but the guys need the car to be good to be successful.

    I was chatting to my neighbour about this, I think the Toyota is a monster waiting to be unleashed.

    Once they sort out how it eats tyres for breakfast lunch and dinner before smoking a cigar that car will eat up the brawn’s.

  4. HounslowBusGarage said on 28th May 2009, 21:28

    I’m not convinced that any of the Toyota pairings have shown the singular ‘will to win’ that has been required.
    Perhaps that is because the drivers have been selected by a company that didn’t want ‘stars’ so that the glory shone on Toyota rather than the driver, or perhaps it’s because the team and management shortcomings of Toyota could only be stomached by the journeymen and nearly-men of F1.
    Imagine Michael Schumacher at Toyota? No, neither can I.

  5. persempre said on 28th May 2009, 21:38

    So much promise, so much money spent &, so far, so little to hang your helmet on.

  6. Andrew said on 28th May 2009, 22:16

    I tried to pick my best Toyota pairing but everytime I think about the team I fall asleep. When I awoke I still saw red and white cars… but this was 1988. McLaren may have the second longest history but the debate’s going to be pretty short. :)

  7. Andrew said on 28th May 2009, 22:31

    I;ve always rated Mika Salo very highly, I’m disappointed he didn’t get to win in a Ferrari or get more chances with better performing teams. I’d have like to see him race longer with Toyota.

  8. Robert McKay said on 28th May 2009, 22:32

    Trulli-Glock is and has been their best pairing, in my view. I can’t really think about Ralf positively given the amount of money he recieved in relation to Jarno – it just didn’t translate on the track.

    I really wanted McNish and da Matta to do well when they drove for them – those were years when I felt some, any sort of connection with Toyota, who are unfortunately one of the least exciting/inspiring teams of the past few years.

    However the real thing that strikes me is when I actually look at the entire Toyota line-up history and then see “zero wins” for the team – why am I not surprised?

    I know that’s probably me being a bit harsh. Yeah, it’s all about the car, and the driver perhaps isn’t as big an element in the overall package as they should be, but I also think you need a certain spark from the drivers both on track and within the larger structure in terms of driving the team – and none of those names really suggests that they are that person.

  9. carldec said on 28th May 2009, 23:28

    Ya know… I really like Trulli… he is great in interviews and seems like he would be a fun guy to hang out with.

    But he just doesnt seem to have what it takes to be a top flight racer. He does well in qualifying but he seems to get lost in most races and doesnt show much ablity to push when pushing is needed.

    His one win at monico was a pretty impressive drive… but I really cant come up with another great drive.

    Now that he is getting a bit long in the tooth, it may be time for him to head on out to pasture.

    Glock on the other hand, looks to be much more racy and I think he is Toyotas best shot at a win any time soon. Lets hope the car improves in the next few races so that he will have something to work with.

  10. manatcna said on 29th May 2009, 1:02

    The current pairing of Trulli & Glock is potentially the best since 2005, but they don’t have much time left to prove it.

  11. Fer no.65 said on 29th May 2009, 1:08

    I love the Glock-Trulli combo. It’s balanced between qualy speed/race pace and Timo’s will to find more speed and Jarno’s experience.

    I like them. But somehow they lack something.

    I have always felt that Toyota were a team that was just racing to be just a part of it. They often score points. And if a Toyota scored a podium finish one would say: “wow, look at Toyota. What a surprise”.

    Renault/Honda/RedBull on the other hand have something special. Something different, difficult to explain.

    I see Toyota as a big looser in the sport. They conquered Rally. They almost won Le Mans. But in F1, they are quite far from successful, aren’t they?

    • todd said on 29th May 2009, 9:01

      agreed, there’s something missing, a spark of some kind, they need a Newey or Brawn style of person pushing them in the right direction. I’m sure there’s some talented people in the team, but I can’t say I can name any of them. Smart people, but not outstanding.

  12. Gerdoner said on 29th May 2009, 1:32

    Well, that’s a hard one. I always was a Mika Salo Fan (and still am), and I do think McNish is a great driver. So I would have loved to see them race a bit longer with the team. I was kinda shocked when I heard that they fired both.
    But I also do think that the current linup is probably the best they have had so far. Trulli is experienced and Glock is probably one of the best drivers on the grid at the moment (in my opinion ofc)

  13. Terry Fabulous said on 29th May 2009, 1:33

    Glock-Trulli

    Trulli is the best driver to ever get behind the Red and White car. And Ralf was unmotivated by the time he arrived. So Glock-Trulli, sort of by default.

    Also Keith

    But how much was that down to Toyota producing one of their race decent F1 cars in 2005?

    Should that be rare instead of race?? Or am I chewing funky mushrooms.

  14. Terry Fabulous said on 29th May 2009, 1:34

    By the way, great idea for a series of article. Cannot wait to get to Williams, McLaren and Ferrari

  15. wasiF1 said on 29th May 2009, 1:53

    The current line up for me is the best,as they also have a good car

  16. Explosiva said on 29th May 2009, 3:12

    Interesting tidbit about qualifying. Has there ever been a pair of teammates in the history of F1 who, in the same season, locked out the front row in one race and locked out the last row in another?

  17. Jay Menon said on 29th May 2009, 5:47

    This one is interesting. I think the McNish-Salo partner ship was ended prematurely, they weren’ given much of a chance. Da Matta was probably a mistake, but in Panis, I think he helped develop the car. He’s been known in the paddock for his technical capabilities.

    Trulli is never going to be a front runner, he’s a great driver, but he’ll never be the star, this is the same with Ralph, both act as really good rear gunners, not leaders.

    Timo Glock looks to have start quality, I’m very impressed with him. The Trulli-Glock partnership doesn’t seem to be greatest, even though Toyota have a good car. Trulli has not taken the lead role by utilizing his vast experience.

    I’d have to go with Keith, Ralph and Trulli was probably the best…but Glock-Trulli has promise…better still if the latter retires to his vineyard.

    • Rabi said on 29th May 2009, 8:00

      Panis was a really good driver and was really unfortunate that his career got cut short due to that injury, he was never the same after it despite racing.

  18. Ronman said on 29th May 2009, 8:02

    Back to the Toyota pairing; i always thought at the beginning the McNish and Salo would stay a long time with Toyota to bring it to the front since they were big part of the initial team development, and was very disappointing with Them picking Ralph. you’d think being the giant that they are,they would have got up to the top very quickly, but for some reason i always considered Ralph as the weak link in any team he raced for.

  19. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th May 2009, 8:55

    Sorry about the spam attack last night guys – have scrubbed it off the site now.

  20. Louis said on 29th May 2009, 9:43

    Ralf & Trulli were the best pairing Toyota had.
    They’ve produced a promising 2005 season with Jarno pushing the car right with the leaders and ralf beeing the most consistent driver, eventually grabing pole and podiums in the season’s last race with a B version that suited his style.

    2006 could and should have been the year for toyota but they blew it. The reason ? Toyota never seemed to be able to choose which driver to develop the car aroud, often switching between Ralf & Trulli. Shame as they were bith great tallents. Ralf @ williams with JPM and Trulli @ Renault with Allonso.

    So Ralf & trulli for sure !

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