Toyota

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McNish. The human speed limiter.
McNish. The human speed limiter.

Like a nouveau riche lottery winner, who gets a massive cash windfall and immediately dresses up as Mr Monopoly, rents out a London penthouse for double the going rate and then spends all of his time smoking Cuban cigars and throwing solid gold darts at a dartboard festooned with an original Monet watercolour, Toyota are F1's entry under the "more money than sense" category.

The story so far, aka "We'll pay for that, mate."

Toyota burst onto the F1 scene in 2002, in a shower of champagne and caviar. Having spent their eleventy squillion dollar budget for the year on making sure their motorhomes were bigger than the Honda ones, they had little left to lavish on drivers, so opted for rent-a-Finn Mika Salo, and Allan "You can take my Le Mans drive, but you'll never take my FREEDOM!" McNish.

A season of toil was, unsurprisingly, the result. Two whole championship points were scored (the first at the opening race, where Boris Johnson-lookalike Salo failed to even beat Mark Webber's Minardi) and the season will only be remembered as being proof as to why McNish is best sticking to driving those big stupid Audi sportscars at Le Mans.

For 2003, a shakeup was required. Out went McNish and Salo, and in came Champ Car champion, Cristiano da Matta and French gadabout Olivier Panis. On the face of it, results were better, and the team even briefly ran 1-2 in the British Grand Prix, allowing commentators to finally slip a line in about "the car in front is a Toyota", most of which were so devoid of humour as to make audiences worldwide wish they had been terminated in the womb.

In 2004, the team reverted to type, spending their budget of fripperies and go-go girls rather than concentrating on making their car less shant. Inevitably, in mid-season, they were forced to go through the traditional humiliation of any stuggling F1 team and swap one of their drivers for Ricardo Zonta, proving decisively to all spectators that they really didn't have a clue what they were doing.

Employment decisions got even worse, as somehow it was decided that lady-fancier Ralf Schumacher and sheep-counter Jarno Trulli both qualified as racing drivers. This was a mistake that they have still neglected to correct.

Despite all the obvious problems associated with employing such dross, 2005 actually went very well, as the process of tirelessly buying people, materials and garages to build their cars finally paid off, and the 2005 car was a good one. Probably championship-winning good, but in the hands of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, 4th place was the best they could manage.

2006 was a depressing mess, but in 2007, Toyota finally look faster than their Japanese arch-rivals, Honda. Although it could be pointed out that Toyota have not actually improved at all, and in fact Honda have just gone into free-fall, this most minor of victories will probably be enough to keep Ralf and Jarno in employment for next season. More's the pity.

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