2007 Team Review - Toyota 20 Nov 2007
If Toyota had hoped that six years into their Formula One adventure, they would finally find success, they were to be sorely disappointed. Scoring just under a third of their far-from-perfect 2006 tally, in 2007 the Japanese teams fortunes took another battering
In theory, with one of the biggest budgets in the paddock and drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli staying on for a third year, Toyota looked to be in a strong position. In Melbourne too, it certainly looked as though they had finally made that leap forward - Schumacher came home just ahead of Trulli in eighth to score a point.
But when considered more closely, there was little cause for celebration. The duo finished over a lap down on the frontrunners and those ahead included Nico Rosberg in the Toyota-engined Williams. Once again, it looked like the team would have a mountain to climb if the TF107 was to be turned into a truly competitive machine.
After his opening point in Australia, it was Schumacher in particular who struggled to get to grips with the car. The German was unable to make it higher than 11th on the grid in six consecutive Grands Prix and without the race pace to challenge those ahead endured a pretty anonymous time. Trulli, in comparison, was a Q3 regular and was able to notch up some occasional points on Sunday - albeit at the thin end of the wedge.
But as the season progressed, even those moments became few and far between and, by and large, both drivers remained frustrated by the hit-and-miss nature of their cars performance and reliability. The Japanese team certainly spent a great deal of effort trying to up their consistency, but nothing they did, either at races or in testing, seemed to improve matters greatly.
Formula One racings return to the Fuji Speedway, a track owned by Toyota, should have been a joyous moment for the squad. But in front of their loyal fans, the best they could muster was 14th for Trulli, while Schumacher retired. It was a disappointing homecoming and symptomatic of the challenges the team had faced all season.
In all Toyota secured just 13 points, enough for sixth place in the constructors championship. At one point or another, tyre troubles, reliability issues, bad luck and balance headaches had all been blamed. Whatever the cause, it is pretty clear that drastic action will be needed if the team are to become podium contenders once more in 2008.
One thing that definitely will change next season is the driver line-up. Schumacher has already announced his departure and there have been suggestions that even Trullis race seat is not 100 per cent safe. Some new talent behind the wheel may well be the breath of fresh air the team needs right now.