Toyota F1 boss Tadashi Yamashina says they were close to pulling the plug on Toyota F1. Apparently the board of directors were not as excited about the Toyota F1 program as Yamashina and Toyota’s struggles were not helping his case any. Arguing with the board that Toyota must stay in F1 and the mission they were trying to accomplish was crucial to Toyota’s brand equity. Now that may seem far fetched but look at Honda’s departure and ask yourself what you honestly believe about Honda’s foray in F1 over the past several years. They couldn’t hack it on the world stage of superior speed and engineering.
Toyota entered the sport to show that they are a better option for the consumer than Honda because they can succeed in F1; the pinnacle of motorsport. Well, they have yet to prove that and although Honda has left, Toyota’s departure would signal that Japan’s automotive industry cannot cut the mustard, so to speak, with the Germans and Italians.
So now it is is revealed, i don’t know who or if it was exclusively, that Panasonic was the linchpin to remain in F1. Apparently Panasonic, no stranger to tightening financial woes themselves, felt their investment in F1 was still among the best marketing efforts and re-signed the agreement for another term. This allowed Toyota F1 to remain and Timo Glock to continue being accused of taking a payoff from McLaren to let Lewis Hamilton pass him in Brazil.
“So I was extremely happy that Panasonic decided to renew its contract with us even though they also had some financial trouble,” said Yamashina. “Their understanding of what we are doing allowed us to keep racing.”
He also remains convinced that F1 provides good value for Toyota.
“We have competed in the F1 circuit over the past seven years, which I believe has helped to invigorate our company and contributed to the sales of our products,” said Yamashina.
The team boss is confident that Toyota is set for a major step forward this season, its car having impressed so far in winter testing.
“We must win,” Yamashina said. “I’m sure of our team’s potential to win a GP title after watching the final test on Thursday. Our team is definitely better than that of last year.”