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?ll 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?s youngest teams: Toyota.

Toyota?s driver line-ups, 2002-2009

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

2002 ?ǣ Mika Salo, Allan McNish
2003-2004 ?ǣ Olivier Panis, Cristiano da Matta
2005-2007 ?ǣ Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli
2008-2009 ?ǣ 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 ?ǣ prompting some to jokingly asked if they?d realised which Schumacher they were getting for their money.

However it did prove their most enduring partnership and ?ǣ on paper at least ?ǣ 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?s 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?s current line-up has potential to be even better. Glock has potential ?ǣ he shone in the wet at Sepang this year and took an excellent second at the Hungaroring in 2008.

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

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

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39 comments on The team mate debates: Toyota

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 !

  6. Striay said on 29th May 2009, 10:08

    I think Glock has a lot of potential, however Trulli seems to be getting near his retirement he used to be quiet good but is getting worse each season(in my opinion).
    Anyway, Toyota are probably quitting F1 soooo…

  7. PJA said on 29th May 2009, 10:49

    I pretty much agree with Keith’s views in the article. Salo-McNish had potential but wasn’t allowed to develop. At the moment I would probably have to say the Schumacher-Trulli partnership was the best line up but I think by the end of the season I think my view will have changed to Trulli- Glock.

    I have never had any strong feelings about Toyota either way, and they are the team I will be least bothered about if (when) they leave.

  8. sainaa said on 29th May 2009, 11:06

    Trulli is very inconsistent and sometimes very annoying. That is why he dumped out of Renault in 2004.
    on the other hand, Glock definitely has talent and his future in F1 is bright.

  9. Smitty said on 29th May 2009, 13:13

    I’ll go for the 2002 pairing – with their current pairing very close behind.

    The 2005-2007 pairing was pretty decent, but the way Ralf’s form dropped, especially in 2007 eventually made me dislike him.

  10. Scott Joslin said on 29th May 2009, 13:47

    Just looking at the record there of the driver line up is depressing in its self. It reflects the ambition of the team that it has traditonaly gone for medioca drivers that are in the twilight of their careers. They have never signed a driver of distict agression that reflects a hunger to win and sadly this is my impression of the team.

    If I had to go for one pairing it would be the current line up, Glok has show some promise but this seems to be only once every 5 races or so. Trulli is consistent but too defensive in his approach to the race.

  11. I think the current pairing wins, but only because its the best of a bad bunch. I do like Glock & think he has potential but I am not a huge fan of Trulli.

    If Toyota is serious about F1, then they need to reflect that in their driver choices & go for someone a bit special rather than guys who are really there to just make up the numbers.

    But, as you say, the whole discussion could be moot by the end of this season anyway…

  12. Michael Baker said on 29th May 2009, 22:24

    For the Budget that Toyota have, They have certainly not used that budget to “lure” the best drivers that the world has to offer.

    just imagine what the team could be like if they invested money in a experianced driver like Coulthard, or Rubens.

    Ralf Schumacher? Ralf on paper, had a pretty average career before he joined Toyota, and when he left it was still average. When it came to Car setup he was certainly not one of the greatest.

  13. Richard Merk said on 30th May 2009, 3:23

    I miss Ralf Schumacher…

    …almost as much as I miss Michael Schumacher.

    There is something about living in his brother shadow, that something that many people can relate too.

  14. Richard Merk said on 30th May 2009, 3:44

    this is a better compilation

  15. yeang said on 30th May 2009, 11:31

    brilliant idea for a series – looking forward to more!

    and for what its worth, their best is definitely one of trulli-glock or trulli-schumacher, but i find it so difficult to choose between the two because glock and schumacher are/were at toyota at very different points in their respective careers.

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