Thursday, March 23, 2006

F1 2006 - Toyota's big test

For a country where harmony and balance are key values, Toyota’s car seemed decisively unbalanced during the last two races.

After announcing that 2006 would be a year of victory for them, Toyota is having difficulties in explaining what happened at the Grand Prix in Bahrain and Malaysia. While Toyota spends more on testing than any other team in the off season ($ 77.5 mil.) it seemed to have made little difference on its performance. A year ago, Jarno Trulli drove his Toyota to second place in the races in Bahrain and Malaysia. In Bahrain this year, he came in to 16th place while Ralf Schumacher finished an undistinguished 14th. If one believes the famous Japanese saying that success is 99 per cent failure than Toyota seems to be on the right path this year...

With money to burn and a budget now bigger than Ferrari’s, I wonder why the team is running around the back of the pack this year. Especially now, when they need a victory more than ever before.

Toyota allocates more than any other team on improving their engines and testing their cars and still does not have a single victory to justify their spending. In comparison Renault spends significantly less and just scored a double victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix with Fisichella coming first and Alonso second. Their engine budget is considerably more moderate at $115 million compared to Toyota’s hefty sum of $ 180 million a year.
So maybe it has nothing to do with the car but more to do with those who drive it?
Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli are both able drivers but personally I don’t believe Schumacher is worth his salary cheque of $ 25 million per year. O.K he had some good races with Williams, but where has that all gone? Trulli on other hand has the potential to do well with Toyota which he already proved last year as well as this by putting in some fantastic qualifying performances. If anyone is going to win any races for Toyota this year I suspect it to be Trulli.

If it’s not the car or the drivers, what is keeping Toyota from going to the top? I can only hope that the first two races were used as a testing ground for their new tyres and that they will be back on form in Melbourne next week. If not, it could have all been a waste of money for Toyota and even worst a huge damage to its brand image and reputation.
It seems that in the fast-paced world of Formula One, Toyota’s corporate philosophy of kaizen, or continuous improvement, still has to come through.


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