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Toyota admits to F1 doubt // Another Japanese manufacturer could be soon to exit the sport

Published by Christine

This article was originally written for BellaOnline, but is republished here for posterity.

As soon as Honda announced their withdrawal from Formula 1, we knew things were going to have to change. FIA President Max Mosley has been pushing for cost-cutting for a long time, and it suddenly became a huge priority. At the time, we were worried that other teams, particularly those from the car manufacturers would follow Honda out the door. Thankfully, that didn't happen, and for 2009 we have a full complement of 10 teams on the grid.

Toyota were our main concern, as they have been ploughing a lot of money into Formula 1, and getting a relatively small return in terms of results. The marketing aspect is still there, in that people know of the brand and recognise it from F1, but the team have yet to score their first win.

Team Principal Tadashi Yamashina has now admitted that he had to fight hard to keep Toyota in Formula 1 for 2009. The company have been suffering at the hand of the economic crisis, and considered leaving soon after Honda had done so. Although the public statements suggested that the team were committed to their long-term future in F1, Yamashina says he had to confront the board and tell them that there was no way they should quit.

Yamashina also added that having a strong and continuing partnership with Panasonic helped, as their loyalty despite their own financial difficulties added great weight to his argument within Toyota. Other teams have struggled to secure sponsorship, and many others, such as Renault, are faced with losing their title sponsors at the end of this or the next season.

The bosses at Toyota agreed to allow the team to continue, but only if they submitted to massive budget cuts - with Yamashina saying the cuts were unprecedented, and larger than he's ever seen.

It seems as though the team have secured their future, at least for 2009, but what they really need now is to start getting some results. There is only so long you can trade off the F1 name without having anything to back it up with. To score even just one victory this season would make all the investment worthwhile, and offer a glimmer for the long-term future.