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Toyota endure shocking Bahrain race 12 Mar 2006

Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota TF106 and Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF106.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 12 March 2006

There were no shortage of strong-looking teams in Bahrain. Excellent performances from Renault, Ferrari, McLaren, Honda and Williams mean that the prospects for a season of close, competitive racing look excellent.

But at the other end of the scale, the first race of the season produced one clear loser - Toyota. Despite having one of the biggest budgets in the paddock and two highly-rated drivers in the shape of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli, the team found themselves battling with the backmarkers throughout the weekend.

A disappointing qualifying session saw both cars trading times with the likes of Midland and Toro Rosso, with Trulli ending up in 14th position and Ralf Schumacher down in 17th. Things didn’t improve during the race with both cars clearly fighting for pace. Schumacher crossed the line in 14th, one place below new boy Scott Speed in the Toro Rosso. And Trulli fared even less well, ending up 16th, with only Tiago Monteiro’s Midland and Takuma Sato’s Super Aguri saving him from the humiliation of being classified as the last-placed runner.

“It was a disappointing race and a disappointing weekend and certainly not what we expected coming here based on our performance in testing,” said shocked Toyota team principal, Tsutomu Tomita. “The basic balance of the car was okay but we have just been struggling for grip all weekend. It seems we have lost the considerable performance advantage we have built up since the middle of last year so we have a lot of work to do to understand the reasons.”

On the evidence of the first race of the season, the team will indeed have to improve dramatically even to get on terms with rivals like Red Bull and BMW Sauber, let alone with the front-running teams.