Toyota Confirms F1 Departure

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Japan’s last F1 team has left the sport. As of now. Toyota has pulled out of Formula 1 with immediate effect. The world’s largest carmaker blamed the recession and faltering car market for its decision.

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announces it plans to withdraw from the FIA Formula 1 world championship at the end of the 2009 season.

TMC, which had viewed its participation in F1 as contributing to the prosperity of automotive culture, remained dedicated to competing at the pinnacle of motor sports even in the face of the abrupt economic changes that started last year.

However, when considering TMC’s motorsports actitives next year and beyond from a comprehensive mid-term viewpoint reflecting the current severe economic realities, TMC decided to withdraw from F1.

Toyota had committed to the new Concorde agreement, and was therefore theoretically signed up until 2012. The team had also been unsuccessfully chasing top drivers like Kimi Raikonnen and Robert Kubica for next season, whilst team boss John Howett had also insinuated that Kamui Kobayashi’s excellent stand-in performances would earn the young Japanese driver a ride. Officially, at least, it seemed that all the Cologne-based team was facing for 2010 was a reduced budget.

But it seems the less positive auspices – like Fujiyama raceway’s departure as a Grand Prix venue and Williams’ withdrawal from a Toyota engine deal – have won through.

It already looked like 2008 drivers Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock were to be left out in the cold, but there is no news yet on what will become of the Toyota team’s base and employees, most of whom are based in Cologne.

TMC also wants to express its heartfelt gratitude to all Panasonic Toyota Racing drivers to date and to all Toyota Motorsport GmbH employees who have helped make the team’s achievements possible.

TMC intends to do its best to find a solution for those parties who will be affected by any inconvenience this decision may cause.

Let’s face it, Toyota’s eight season stint in F1 wasn’t exactly a happy one. The team never won a race, spent well over a billion dollars, and only really succeeded – eventually – in beating Japanese rivals Honda.

However, 2009 was a banner season of sorts for the team. As a member of the double diffuser trio, the team started the season fairly strongly with a string of podiums and a front-row lockout in Bahrain, a race they probably should have won. What’s more, Jarno Trulli’s pace at Spa later in the season might also have been enough for a maiden victory, had the stars aligned correctly.

So this – to me at least – is a strange time for the team to decide to bow out of the sport. Especially with costs getting slashed (and no amount of recession leaves Toyota THAT broke, anyway) and a bunch of new teams coming in as cannon fodder to make the established teams look good next year. They are hardly leaving on a high note as it is, but I guess everything’s relative.

In motorsports, [Toyota] will not only race in various categories, but will also actively contribute to further development of motorsports by supporting grassroots races and planning events in which it is easy for people to participate.

Just FYI, folks, Renault is also discussing its involvement at a board meeting later today, although conventional wisdom states that the team is still committed to the sport. Here’s hoping.

But on the slightly brighter side, could this be the opportunity that Dr. Mario was looking for?


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