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Toyota exit shifts F1 balance of power

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Andrew Benson | 11:42 UK time, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Toyota's decision to quit Formula 1 is the latest in a series of high-profile exits by the world's biggest car companies - but it will almost certainly be the last, at least for a while.

Toyota follows Honda and BMW as the third manufacturer to pull out of the sport in the space of 11 months. But the three left in - Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault - all seem to be secure for the foreseeable future.

Certainly, no-one has any doubts about Mercedes and Ferrari.

Mercedes, which owns 40% of the McLaren team, is in the process of expanding and strengthening its commitment. It is currently deciding whether to take a controlling interest in the championship-winning Brawn team - perhaps as much as 75%, although that would probably mean Mercedes divesting itself of its shareholding in McLaren.

Ferrari, who are owned by Fiat, have been in grand prix racing since the 1920s - and are the only team to have raced in F1 every year since the inception of the world championship in 1950. And, historically, the car company was born out of the race team, not the other way around.

As far as Renault goes, there have been doubts this year about its commitment. During F1's summer of political discontent, the French company were mentioned by Max Mosley, the former president of F1's governing body the FIA, as one of three manufacturers likely to pull out - the other two being Toyota and BMW.

But in the wake of the Singapore race-fixing scandal, Renault's bosses confirmed to the FIA that they would remain in F1 in 2010.

And further indication of its commitment came in the signing last month of the highly rated Polish driver Robert Kubica. They are expected to announce imminently - perhaps as early as Thursday - that the German former Toyota driver Timo Glock will be in the other car.

Toyota, by contrast, might have been making noises about wanting Kimi Raikkonen or Kubica for 2010, but they were conspicuous by their lack of signings.

And whereas Renault, Ferrari and McLaren all have motorsport in their corporate blood - in that they absolutely understand what is required to succeed - Toyota never really seemed to have worked it out.

In eight years of F1, Toyota lurched from one mediocre season to the next. The closest they came to appearing to be on the right track was in 2005 and into 2006, after they signed the top designer Mike Gascoyne to lead their technical department.

But they sacked him in 2006 after one race - in which then Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher finished on the podium - because he questioned the management processes that he, and many others, felt were holding Toyota back.

toyota595.jpgThe sun has set on Toyota's involvement in F1

The company is wedded to a management philosophy called the "Toyota Way". But while this has played a key role in making them the biggest car company in the world, it has proved less well suited to the quick decision-making required in such a fast-moving sport.

And after spending in the region of £1.6bn (more than half its last-posted annual loss) to win nothing in F1, the board's decision to cut its losses (literally) in the context of its worst-ever financial figures, and fears about the very survival of the company, is to be expected.

And following tyre company Bridgestone's decision to stop at the end of 2010, F1 will be without a Japanese corporate involvement for the first time since 1983, when Honda returned to the sport.

On top of the global financial crisis, this, according to my sources in Japan, is also a result of key executives in those companies not liking motorsport - and preferring to chase the bottom line. So it is unlikely this will change until the management of those companies changes.

This latest development also sheds a slightly different light on the political upheavals of the summer.

When Mosley was trying to force through his plan for a £40m budget cap in F1, Toyota were one of the members of the F1 Teams' Association (Fota) most vociferously opposed.

At the time, Mosley's contention that three manufacturers were on the verge of pulling out looked like a ploy and there was the fear that it would turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It might still have been that. Yes, there are global financial reasons for Toyota's withdrawal - as there were with Honda and BMW - but how are we to know whether what the manufacturers viewed as Mosley's arbitrary and authoritarian governing of the sport did not also affect their decision?

Mosley lost the war with Fota - he was forced out, and failed to push through the budget cap. But he has been proved right up to a point.

F1 did need new teams to protect itself against the withdrawal of the manufacturers, and his attempts to drive down costs have definitely had an effect on getting them in.

As it stands, four new teams are already entered for 2010 and Toyota's withdrawal paves the way for a fifth. The Sauber team, which BMW bought and used as its F1 vehicle, was last month named as first reserve should any other teams pull out.

How many of these new teams actually make it on to the grid next year remains an open question - there are doubts about at least two of them.

But however many make it, there has definitely been a shift in the balance of power in F1.

When Fota forced Mosley to back down in the summer, it appeared to have emerged as one of the most influential forces in F1, with the FIA marginalised.

Mosley has gone now, to be replaced by his chosen successor, former Ferrari team boss Jean Todt.

But now there are only three manufacturers, and more than double that number of private entries, that surely means the power of the new FIA president has been strengthened.

Fota has stayed united in the face of all the FIA's attempts to divide them so far, but the new teams weaken that unity.

Todt has not yet revealed what his plans are - although he has mentioned cost-cutting. But whatever they are the latest development will probably make it easier to get them through, even if the big beasts of F1 do not like them.

BLOG UPDATE, 1700: The BBC has learnt on Wednesday that Renault is discussing at an emergency board meeting on Wednesday whether to pull out of Formula 1.

The board is discussing whether to quit the sport, stay on as an engine supplier, sell the team or pull out altogether.

A decision is not expected to be announced on Wednesday or Thursday, but could come any time after that.

Obviously this could change some of the views I expressed at the top of this article on Renault, but the thrust of much of what I have said remains valid no matter what Renault decides.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    At least with the diversity of the privateers, and the fact that there is more emphasis on individual team appearance and ingenuity, Formula 1 won't end up as monotonous as the WRC or Touring Cars - where the presence of only two or three manufacturers makes it rather dull.

    The saddest thing about this announcement is that Kamui "Crazy" Kobayashi will probably be denied a drive - and will have to resort back to working in his father's sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Unless, however, one of the other underperforming "rookies" is dumped in his favour - a move which I think would provide much more excitement in the sport from a driver with evidently much more promise than the likes of Messrs Grosjean, Alguersuari et al...

  • Comment number 2.

    I can't say I'm surprised and I can't say I'll miss them either - Toyota always seemed an ill-fit with F1. The good news is that Sauber should now have a place on the grid and hopefully Mario Thiessen will be there with them.

  • Comment number 3.

    A shame - I thought they would survive. All Toyota really needed was a top driver that could bring the team to the front, like Schumacher did for Ferrari, but it never looked like happening.

    Being cynical, but I can't help but think that of the three manufacturers who have pulled out, it's no coincidence that all were lacking in constant success. Although I don't believe manufacturers are the big bad wolf some make them out to be, the dangers of them treating F1 as a marketing arena, a play thing which is only worth keeping when it's going well, are more apparent than ever.

    Kudos to Renault for being the exception and sticking with F1 despite a downturn in form, and I hope they get their act together soon and address the fundamental problems with the car. They've struggled in the Bridgestone era, so maybe they can hang on until 2011 when Bridgestone will pull out, and things might be better for them.

    Apart from the sadness at the inevitable job losses this will produce, I hope Kamui Kobayashi gets a seat next year.

  • Comment number 4.

    As I said at the time of the FOTA/Max Mosley row, the big teams have too much influence on the sport, and when they always win, it is boring. This season, with different teams winning and some of them, such as Brawn, being small ones, has made the sport much more exciting again.

    Obviously F1 needs some big teams to keep the corporate morons interested and hence keep the money flowing in. Other than that,they aren't needed in my opinion and the more small teams, the better.

    So good riddance Toyota, BMW & Honda. And a massive welcome to F1USA, Campos, Manor and an even bigger welcome back to Sauber and Lotus. F1 needs you!

    Oh, and Nikolas_GR, I couldn't agree more with you about Kamui Kobayashi. He looks brilliant!

  • Comment number 5.

    Seems like F1 is heading back to not so long ago when car manufacturer's just supplied the engines. It seems they start holding teams back, look at what Honda achieved as a supplier of engines than an owner of a team. Would be great to see people like Audi come into the sport as an engine supplier.

    At least now we'll have no Trulli trains slowing half the field down in races, unless he does the same with another team.

  • Comment number 6.

    More private Teams the better in my opinion, providing the regulations are such that they can have a sniff of the points at each GP.

    Worst part of this news is Kamui Kobayashi. We need this guy in F1. Good in the rain, keen to 'have a go', and appears not to take it too seriously. He appears to be be one of those F1 rarities.. A 'Character'!

    I hope he gets a drive somewhere for the good of the sport.

  • Comment number 7.

    Just echoing others' comments about Kobayashi. In two races he has shown himself to be a real battler, just the sort of driver you know will give great entertainment value. I really hope he gets a seat somewhere else next year. His "crazy" manoeuvres and Jenson's gripes about them in Brazil put me in mind of Eddie Irving unlapping himself from Ayrton Senna way back when and getting a punch in the face for his troubles.

  • Comment number 8.

    It is a big shame about Toyota. But it was expected to happen wasn't it.
    I feel a bit sorry of Kamui Kobayashi because he drove so well in Ahu Dhabi.
    Still at least Sauber will be maybe to come back.
    Anybody got an idea what the 2010 Drivers- Line Up will be.

    Also anybody can think what the 2011 F1 Calendar will Be?
    PLEASE TELL ME?

  • Comment number 9.

    Toyota's exit is good news for the Hinwil based team who will most likely end up on the grid next year if they finally reveal who their mysterious owner is.

    Another question is, will anybody want to buy Toyota? Given how expensive their operation is i doubt it. One wonders if Mclaren will make a move on it's engine division like it did with BMW's.

    Perhaps this is what everybody has been waiting for, with Mclaren wanting to be independent and possibly a Toyota engine buyout would be of interest to them. This perhaps has stalled negotiations between Brawn and Mclaren contracted Mercedes for a full commitment for 2010 and therefore has a knock on affect on the drivers market.

    In short, perhaps news may come thick and fast now as next year finally comes to shape.

  • Comment number 10.

    Remember all of the hoo-haa in the summer about the FOTA breakaway and how pleased all the teams seemed to be that they would be able to race in places where people actually wanted to watch the races. As F1 reverts to its roots with the demise of many of the factory teams I think it is really important that the sport stays close to its fan-base. Without direct access to the races for those fans, F1 could be in real trouble. For me this makes the decision about the British GP all the more important, and what about re-instating the oldest race of all the French GP? Who cares if there is a race in Turkey or South Korea - there isn't any F1 tradition there, and in this economic climate people aren't going to travel to these races in large numbers.

  • Comment number 11.

    It might still have been that. Yes, there are global financial reasons for Toyota's withdrawal - as there were with Honda and BMW - but how are we to know whether what the manufacturers viewed as Mosley's arbitrary and authoritarian governing of the sport did not also affect their decision?

    Mosley lost the war with Fota - he was forced out, and failed to push through the budget cap. But he has been proved right up to a point.

    ----------

    In two paragraphs you completely contradict yourself. How can Mosely be a reason behind the pull outs when he lost that battle? You do not win a battle like that, get your way and then pull out because you had to fight it in the first place.

    Mosely was right, he was always going to be right on this, anyoen with any sense could see that, it's the way he went about things people hated.

  • Comment number 12.

    One wonders if Mclaren will make a move on it's engine division like it did with BMW's.
    ---------
    That was just a rumour.



    Remember all of the hoo-haa in the summer about the FOTA breakaway and how pleased all the teams seemed to be that they would be able to race in places where people actually wanted to watch the races. As F1 reverts to its roots with the demise of many of the factory teams I think it is really important that the sport stays close to its fan-base. Without direct access to the races for those fans, F1 could be in real trouble.
    --------------
    Absolute Tosh, 99% of F1 fans have never and will never attend a GP. F1 is a business, it needs direct access to wherever the money is and like it or not the money generated by a GP in Abu Dhabi with it's international visitors, theme parks and glitzy hotels absolutely dwarfs that from somewhere like Silverstone. It's not romantic, it's not traditional but it's reality.

  • Comment number 13.

    Just as the world was getting Kobayashimania the powers that been pull the rug from beneath him. I hope his talent now doesn't only get used to make sushi. I hope he gets a drive for next year.

    I would like to formally start the campaign to get him into the 2nd McLaren seat. Who's with me?

  • Comment number 14.

    I really hope any team would give kobayashi another chance. We only saw a glimps of what he can do and showed us what we were missing in the past few year "Character". He isn't afraid of doing banzai moves on top drivers where as Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, Romain Grosjean looks too scared to do anything except cruise at the back of the pack.

  • Comment number 15.

    There is no mention of what will happen to the team though. Weren't Toyota confirmed for next year? If so they may get sold as a going concern much like Honda/Brawn. Not sure if this would prioritise them over Sauber.

  • Comment number 16.

    effone365 raises a good point. However, due to the sprawling nature of the Toyota F1 with so many different bases in Germany & Japan, this may put off some potential buyers. But, if the main chassis manufacturer is in the one place in Germany, then a possible Brawn-type takeover with an engine supplier could be possible. As effone365 says, if this happens, would the new concern take priority over the Sauber/Qadbak team?

  • Comment number 17.

    Andrew, you seem to forget that Suzuka is owned by Honda

  • Comment number 18.

    Let this be a lesson to manufacturers.

    Don't bother coming back to F1 unless you're an engine supplier.

    Manufacturers can come and go as they please except when you own a team the consequences can be far dire than the privateers: eg. BMW cf. Williams.

  • Comment number 19.

    And there was Bernie saying only this morning that Toyota wouldn't pull out because they'd signed the Concord agreement...

  • Comment number 20.

    Not really bothered with Toyota quitting, the only good thing to come out of Toyota recently was Kobayashi. Just hope that one of the teams has enough sense to sign him for 2010.

  • Comment number 21.

    If my memory is correct, Max Mosley was the person who, several years ago, was doing eveything he could to encourage more manufacturers to participate in F1. His opinion at the time was that the smaller teams would just come and go, but the manufacturers would be in it for the long term. I thought then that this was an incorrect assessment.
    I also fear that the incessant move to run races in countries with little or no racing history will similarly prove to have an unfortunate outcome. Without the support of manufacturers who want to break into those countries and their relatively untapped markets, how long will the teams have an interest in racing there?
    Can anyone tell me why the circuits have to pay for the "privilege" of staging a Grand Prix? If anyone else wants to use a similar facility, they have to pay to hire it!!
    It seems that now, more than ever, the whole structure of how Formula 1 operates needs to be urgently reviewed and changes implemented.

  • Comment number 22.


    I hate to say I told you so, but all the auto manufacturers are in process of going out of business. All of them ... well, maybe not Ferrari. Fiat, definitely.

    Call it the 'British Leyland Disease'.

    In ten years, F1 will revert to its roots, with small shops making one- off cars for racing, racing will be prohibitively (and relatively) expensive and F1 as a consequence will shift focus very close to its roots - Europe.

    Going or Gone:

    - 747's
    - billionaires
    - 'works' cars
    - Abu Dhabi or China (or Korea, or Brazil or Russia or any other non- Euro venue
    - large, expensive teams
    - advertising
    - overpaid drivers

    Peak oil is real, it happened already (!) and depletion is getting worse by the hour. The Japanese economy is getting ready to 'do an Argentina' and the UK will probably follow along soon after. Don't get started on Eastern Europe.

    Inflation/hyper- inflation is unavoidable in China and the US ... what a mess!

    Enjoy what you've just experienced, it was fun. From now on the future is 'less'. Get used to it.

    steve from virginia

  • Comment number 23.

    I just want to echo everyone else's comments about Kamui Kobayashi - WHAT A LEGEND! A truly exciting driver who really deserves a seat for next year. SenorSenor - It would be a dream if he was signed by McLaren but it isn't going to happen mate :-(

    As for Toyota, thank you for discovering Kamui Kobayashi but that's it. Good riddance.

    By the way, Steve from Virgina, go outside for a walk and enjoy life, not everything is doom and gloom ;-)

  • Comment number 24.

    This is a shame. I always saw Toyota as the better of the two Japanese teams. Well, Toyota are always associated with unfulfilled promise, but Honda were infact 10 times worse. And BMWs exit was no surprise.

    But this one is, I never saw Toyota as a quitter. I liked the team very much, and will miss them. I will also miss Kobayashi if he secures no drive.

    Looks like F1 is shifting back to the privateers. I hope this means a constant reduction in costs, rather than back to the days of sheer Ferrari and McLaren dominance.

  • Comment number 25.

    SenorSenor - I'm with you!

  • Comment number 26.

    SenorSenor, go on then, set up a Facebook group, haha

  • Comment number 27.

    A sad day indeed, for F1. I believe Toyota were 50/50 about staying in F1, and they did not take the decision lightly to pull the plug on their team. I hope a good GP2 or A1GP outfit buys them up and can keep what is an excellent workforce in Germany employed on building racing cars, Toyota were so close to wins it was sheer bad luck that they didn't get any. The Toyota engine was excellent with practically no failures, can that be said of the BMW or the Renault? That technology must be of interest to its competitors.

  • Comment number 28.

    There is a new group on Facebook called Save Kamui Kobayashi. Please let our voices be heard and let this Legend drive an F1 car next year and not end up making sushi in his dads restaruant.

  • Comment number 29.

    It's a shame a company with so much potential has left absolutely no impression on f1 history. They were very non-descript - I had to intentionally remember they were even in most races. They also made some very odd decisions like keeping Ralf Schumacher in a car for so long. I'm not surprised to see them go - they were never dynamic enough for f1

  • Comment number 30.

    I'm not at all sad, and I never expected them to win. Apart from teh fact that I dtrongly disliked them from their WRC and Sportscar days I could see from their perfomance in testing that first year they were going nowhere. I think they kept making sportscars but with the bodywork pared back a bit...

    Hope the FIA give the slot to Sauber Ferrari, because thet'll make a nice balance to all those Cosworth entries due and the many Mercedes engined cars too for that matter.

  • Comment number 31.

    "...
    Toyota's decision to quit Formula 1 is the latest in a series of high-profile exits by the world's biggest car companies - but it will almost certainly be the last, at least for a while.
    ..."

    You reckon? ...

  • Comment number 32.

    I'd actually prefer to see F1 without production car manufacturers in the competition. It would keep the costs down a bit and there would be some competition for the best engines. Brawn and Red Bull have shown that you don't need massive bugets and a large companies backing to do well. Even a team as small as Force India showed that being a small private team doesn't discount you from podium finishes. It would keep the passion in the sport and remove some of the money making attitudes that some of the big manufactureres have had over the last 10 years or so.

  • Comment number 33.

    #31

    Renault look like they might be pulling out aswell now. I think their performance this year coupled with the race fixing scandal and losing Alonso might be enough to make them jump ship.

  • Comment number 34.

    Kobayashi for McLaren!

    Toyota should of:
    -signed better drivers
    -listened to the actual race team

  • Comment number 35.

    The greatest days of F1 have always come with the 'garagistes' in the ascendant.

  • Comment number 36.

    Agree totatlly with MrAoutotest about the circuits. The 'historic circuits' Spa, Nurburgring, Monza, Donington, Siverstone should have a close to fixed place. F1 should work to maintain them rather than the opposite.

    The new places may have fabulous facilities, but how many spectators attend?

  • Comment number 37.

    Well, so much for Renault's commitment...

  • Comment number 38.

    "Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault - all seem to be secure for the foreseeable future."

    In the current economic climate nothing is secure for the foreseeable future, not even engine supply. Even the bosses of car companies have brains.

  • Comment number 39.

    I tend to agree with the doubts above. Lots of new tracks coming on line, but where were the spectators in Abu Dubai? How long will it remain commercially interesting to hold a Grand Prix in front of empty stands, however much money the local authorities offer up front? After the novelty wears off, will the Chinese GP, or the Korean GP be viable concens?

    F1 left the USA because of lack of interest and Canada over advertising. Years back it left Mexico too. Is there really enough local interest in F1 to sustain racing for long in so many new places??? It looks like the plan has been to take the money up front and to hell with the future.

  • Comment number 40.

    Cricketing_stargazer, I agree with you in that from most camera shots, it appeared that there weren't that many spectators in Abu Dhabi, but actually the race was a sellout of 50,000. I suspect that some spectators left midway through the race to head back to Ferrari World for some fun. The novelty definitely wore off this year in Bahrain, Turkey and Valencia. Does Spain really need two races?

    Living in the US, I'll tell you that the USF1 team is working very hard to renew the F1 interest here, although it won't surpass NASCAR. Canada is back on the schedule which is great. I may finally be able to attend a race!

  • Comment number 41.

    Not surprised at all that Toyota are quitting. They have been on the F1 grid for eight seasons and spent tens of billions of pounds in the team and they haven't even managed a race win. That's pretty awful. They may not have had the best drivers but they had pretty solid drivers like Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher who were capable of scoring race victories.

    During this season I had the impression Toyota were frustrated about not being able to sign top drivers such as Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen. Unfortunately, they were on to a loser. I think Toyota were trapped in a vicious circle where they cannot attract the best drivers on the grid because they don't have race victories under their belt and cannot achieve race victories without top drivers. Toyota should have concentrated their investment on the development of their F1 cars right from the beginning so they can challenge for race wins as soon as possible and develop a good track record, and in the longer term they would have attract the best driving talent.

    I don't think I will miss Toyota very much and hopefully it will mean more smaller privateer teams coming in to the sport. Hopefully will see more examples of engineers, designers and team bosses of new teams make the most of their skills and expertise and achieving success with slimmer budgets.

  • Comment number 42.

    Max was right all along.

    As for Abu Dhabi 4.3% of the population bought race tickets, if that happened in the UK, Silverstone could expect 2,628,454 people to turn up, and if the USA had an F1 circuit they could expect 13,236,733 people.

    :D

  • Comment number 43.

    AWWWWW poor Renault - poor management? scandals following you around? losing your best driver? NOT WINNING ANYMORE???????? Ill tell you what boys pick up your dummy - grab your pram - and turn off the light on your way out

    ( I feel sorry for the factory employees though )

  • Comment number 44.

    Czar-Orac,
    do you know what percentage of the GP attendance was actually from UAE?? Would be interesting to compare with other GP's....

    I can only think of Monaco (and also maybe Malaysia) where there are probably more 'tourists' visiting the GP than from the indigenous population??

  • Comment number 45.

    I don't know about the Piquet business at Singapore being to aid to Fernando Alonso's personal 'bid for victory',but rather a desperate attempt to keep the team's main sponsor, ING, from pulling out and Renault itself from abondonning F1. This would seem far more in keeping with the Pat Symonds of reputation within the sport and what's actually transpired over the past few weeks and today.

  • Comment number 46.

    I'm not going to miss Toyota very much but I think it would be a shame if Renault were to go as well. They have a long history in F1 right back to the 1980's at least, both as a team in their own right and as an engine supplier. Several world champions have made it with Renault engines behind them.

    I think we are seeing the early stages of Bernie's circus starting to unravel. It's all very well having wonderful facilities in far away places but the new fans in these places are never going to be enough to replace the enthusiasm of fans in contries where F1 traditionally has it's roots. The problem is the number of fans could diminish in these countries with nothing permanent to replace them.

    Its vitally important I think, that F1 retains races in Europe and North America. If the numbers start to dwindle in the the far east, etc there will be problems ahead for the whole sport.

  • Comment number 47.

    Andrew: not a comment on your post, but a plea that someone in the web team can fix the RSS feed for the "all in one place" Formula One blog. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/formula1/rss.xml is still stuck giving posts from August!

    Thanks in advance...

  • Comment number 48.

    I am surprised that a team that has spent over €200m consecutively over the last six seasons has failed to win one race. Honda were the same only to be shown how to do it by RB on a shoestring budget. The key point is effective management and I believe that these teams were not a match for their European counterparts. Renault should stay in, but tainted by Benetton I don't blame them. Looks like it's going to be F1 between Ferrari and Mercedes. The engine obviously play a major role, but it's the integration of that horse power potential into the chassis that makes a winning product and fortunately for the UK - we seem to have the right mindset to win. This is one field of engineering where we excel and our drivers seem to thrive on - now with 10 world drivers championship. Good to see Cosworth back though.

  • Comment number 49.

    Ho-Hum, another "largely-uninterested-in-the-fans-the-sport-or-even-really-winning" corporation slumps out of the back door... a failure.

    Mr Toyotasan, please leave your seat vacant for the next businessman determined to milk further F1 of it's history and excitement in favour of sales and profits.

    ...good riddance.

  • Comment number 50.

    Pretty shocked to hear this for two reasons. Firstly, Toyota rarely quit Motorsports formulae before they've succeeded in them. Secondly, they were the strongest they've ever been in F1 at the end of this season, which could have been carried over to 2010. Strange! Even Stranger that there doesn't appear to be a sale attempt either (Stand to be corrected there). That's a lot of people out of work.

    I won't really miss Toyota though. They haven't brought anything to F1 other than a brand's endorsement of the sport, and 2 years without Suzuka. They provided a wallet-filling career lifeline for the likes of Ralf Schumacher and Panis, but that's about it. Never really got to grips with F1 nor attracted a top driver. They seemed dead from the outside, no real character to the team, which would have been fine if they'd been thrashing everyone and appeared focussed on winning. But they weren't. It also means Sauber gets a place on the grid, and it's not like we're short of cars for next year is it?

    F1 was better before Manufacturers got big anyway. We're sort of back to an 1980s/early 1990's situation now; McLaren and Ferrari and Renault (they powered Williams) with the big manufacturer involvement, lots of smaller teams with customer engines chasing them. That's for the good of the sport; independent teams are more conscious of the money in their pockets and won't overspend. We'll probably see F1 costs fall naturally now, and sponsors won't ignore the little teams just to associate with big names, making Independents' finances more secure.

    So it's a case of build your own chassis, shove in 1 of a choice of similar engines, and race. Sounds a bit like Champ Car in the late 1990s. And that provided great racing on a near-level playing field.

    If this had happened with Honda's pullout a year ago, I would have worried. Instead, I'm looking forward to next year even more. Even if Renault leave too, I don't see how it discredits the sport; If the racing improves, who's cares about the team names?

  • Comment number 51.

    Also #24 (I know should've read before writing-apologies)
    "Toyota are always associated with unfulfilled promise, but Honda were infact 10 times worse."

    It's worth remembering that Honda was officially BAR until 2005. They got majorly involved in 2004, when Jenson had a stellar season 3 laps behind the Ferrari but 30 seconds onfront of everyone else. And of course they did actually win a race too (fortuitously or not, a win's a win). 2007 and 2008 were dire though.

    Toyota never really plunged to the lows of Honda's 07/08 seasons, but never really got very high either. For a team to throw the money they did at it and get precisely nowhere is remarkable. The only race they even led when it wasn't due to pitstops was Silverstone 2003, when a nutcase caused a safety car, and the Toyotas stayed out when everyone pitted (actually that's due to pitstops too-doh!)

  • Comment number 52.

    Toyota spending more than anyone else, and getting absolutely nothing out of it must have made their involvement increasingly embarrassing - the world economic crisis was perfect for pulling out without losing face.

    In a way it's nice that you need more than just money to succeed in F1.

  • Comment number 53.

    So here we are at the end of the season and it looks like its all change for next year. Not all bad really. This year we had change and it was good for the sport as a whole.
    At this precise time, if we are to believe what is rumoured, next year three teams will be missing.
    Lets look at what those teams achieved.

    Renault, not only have they supplied engines to others , notably Williams the most sucessfull over the years, but have gone on to become Champions in their own right. Apart from recent shame they have been a creditable contributor in F1.

    Toyota, well they have tried, but you cannot run an F1 team like you do a factory, and their disipline in sticking to the "Toyota way" of doing things has probably cost them if you listen to the talk thats going around. Provided Williams with a fair engine this year, although you would think now that Frank and Pat knew what was coming and signed up with Cosworth a "year early". Obviously, with all that F1 experience they could see it coming.

    BMW, Blustered into F1 as an engine supplier to Williams, and allegedly ended the relationship under a cloud. Blustered into Sauber, and made statements that they would win the championship in double quick time.
    All the huff, puff and promise, well it didn't come to much did it ? Again, running a team in F1 is so different to everything else on the planet. Did they listen , NO, and now here is a great team founded by Peter Sauber, which may have not been the most sucessful on the grid, but had the total respect of every other team on the grid, and its left in tatters. I just hope somebody has the time and money to put all the pieces back together again.

    So next year, what does it hold for us. Well quite a lot really, new teams, new faces, perhaps Brawn under Mercedes control, and in so doing will they be privvy to all the Honda engineering that went on before, and its the turn of Mclaren to maybe be in the doldrums with a supplier engine. Engine suppliers are going to be in demand, BIG TIME. Will there be enough to go around. With all the manufactures that have left the sport, besides Cosworth who is going to come in ? I think that will grow into a topic of its own if not already.

    Tyres will soon also become an issue, with the supplier position looking very uncertain in the future.

    Next year will also be a good time for up and coming drivers to push to the fore. Piquet must be kicking himself right now with all the golden opportunities that are now begging. His main rival Rosberg, while not perfect will spring board up the rankings next season, and good luck to him.

    The next season will soon be upon us, and intresting, I think so, nearly all change, a few spills a lot of thrills and some good progress by rookie teams, with rookie drivers and all that brings. Team format is going back to where it was years ago, and we had real people, racing real cars, grit and determination winning over power and experience, wheel to wheel stuff, and real racing, with races won on the track, not in the pits. Murray Walker will want to come out of retirement for this, the establishment may have to breathe in and bite its tongue, which will be brilliant for the rest of us.

    Last but no means least, will new man Todt be any better than his predesessor. We read and hear of Ferrari's "special relationship" with the sports authorities in the past. Many people asked the question would Schuie, with Brawn and Todt at his side had "the benefit of the doubt" as many times as he did without that "special relationship". It will be interesting to see in which direction Todt takes things. With all the mess now created by so many teams leaving you have to ask the question,"was Mosley so wrong, or just a year or two, too late?".


  • Comment number 54.

    I hope no one else drops out, I remember when the BTCC (British Touring Cars) lost the big car makes to the European TCC, the fast action racing went out the window when it became mostly privateers. Even thought some have come back it is still not the same. For that old hard on action you need to watch the Ozzy V8's.

    I wish the new teams good luck, but they are going to be back markers for a few years.

  • Comment number 55.

    Won't the entry of smaller teams and loss of manufacturers reduce the benefit that the new big circuits see from the F1 circus and naturally bring back F1 to its roots on European circuits (and the old Empire!)?

  • Comment number 56.

    SenorSenor - Kobayashi in a McLaren - I was thinking the same thing :-). But doubt it would happen but only time will tell. Would be a shame if he does not get a drive next season. If I were McLaren I would give him a trial drive to check out his potential. Hopefully one of the new teams will pick him up as ahe has a great future I think, if given the opportunity to prove himself (which I think he has done already).

    MrAutotest - Because F1 is a business.. unfortunately and they have built up a reputation that allows them to demand huge sums for the priveledge of hosting one of their races. Personally I think this is wrong as the sport has turned into something that has more interest in how much money it can make rather than the interest of the teams and the fans....

  • Comment number 57.

    stevefromvirginia- I would have to argue with your inclusion of Brazil on your list of races to go. It's been on the calender since the 70's (correct me if I'm wrong) and it has never suffered from empty grandstands. The Brazilians are passionate about their motor racing and their F1 thanks to Fittipaldi, Senna and there is Barrachello, Massa and now Bruno Senna to keep the crowds flocking in.

    With regards to other non-euro races, the Australian GP & Japanese GP will stay on the calendar as the teams enjoy going there and the crowds will always fill the grandstands. The new venues will not last very long as the big manufacturers are not there to draw in the crowds. Plus, if the racing isn't very good, then no one will go. See Valencia as an example.

    Also, all this talk of the being no British Grand Prix, where's the anger for the French Grand Prix? Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't all this start in France with the first ever Grand Prix? (I think the words "Grand Prix" gives it away, non?) If we want to talk history, the French GP has it by the bucket load (as Murray would say.) And the reason I used to get annoyed when people said Silverstone had more Grand Prix history than Donington. Eh? I'm sorry, but Donington was holding Grands Prix before Silverstone was an airfield. Anyway, that's just me as a Donington local.

    How are we doing with Kamui to McLaren? Any news yet? Someone get him signed!

  • Comment number 58.

    Well surprise, surprise, as soon as Toyota pull out, Renault are now wieghing up their options. At this rate, we're still only going to have 10 teams for 2010!

    Tbh, I'd rather Toyota stay than Renault - Toyota don't cause some of the biggest scandals in the sport for example. On the contrary, Toyota have been relatively well behaved (aside from a minor exchange of information with Ferrari all the way back in 2004).

    Infact, Toyota were close to wins on a number of occasions since 2005, but they've always been hit by foul luck. I would have liked to have seen Toyota in a year when, for once, things went their way.

  • Comment number 59.

    #57 Senorsenor

    Agree about the French GP. Maybe it's because Bernie has said before it's either a British Grand Prix or a French Grand Prix. Also France has chopped and change it's venues too much, few have the chance to establish a history to it like silverstone. We've only ever used 3 venues for the British Grand Prix (Donington's was a European GP), and Silverstone's held a GP at least every other year since 1950. OK Donington started first, but it also closed for 38 years in the middle, so Silverstone's has a longer operating life.

    My personal Calendar idea: British, French, German, Italian, Monaco, Belgian, Japanese and Australian GPs take place every year, then other races local to each other alternate years. I.e China 2010/Korea 2011, Spain 2010/Portugal 2011, Bahrain 2010/Abu Dhabi 2011, could do same with Malaysia/Singapore, Argentina/Brazil, Hungary/Austria.

    Get rid of Valencia, no need for 2 races in the same country each year.

  • Comment number 60.

    @ 42 Czar-Orac:
    "Max was right all along.

    As for Abu Dhabi 4.3% of the population bought race tickets, if that happened in the UK, Silverstone could expect 2,628,454 people to turn up, and if the USA had an F1 circuit they could expect 13,236,733 people."

    These are outrageous lies! Unsurprising for a Mosley supporter, I suppose, but still disappointing. Abu Dhabi is a city, not a country. Comparing like with like, if 4.3% of the population of Silverstone turned up for the GP, 86 spectators would be in attendance! 4.3% of the population of Indianapolis is just under 74,000.

    A sport that depends on rich oil-men pouring money into it will have a short shelf-life. The fact that you have to come up with such absurd comparisons to justify it only goes to underline what a bad idea it is.

  • Comment number 61.

    4 big players in 12 months aint good honda bmw bridgestone and now toyota and renault aint good
    and bernie aint botherd well if i was him i would be well he wouldnt be realy toyota and renault signed the concord agreement so he will get a few quid compo from them ok there are others to replace them but the sport needs other engine suppliers or works teams without them the sport will become dull
    we need these other big names in f1 also a british gp unless bernie stops his selfish streak he will lose f1 forever will he be botherd then
    he needs audi and maybe porshe to come in and spice it up a bit
    but bernie needs to stop treating teams like s!!t and holding them to ransome

  • Comment number 62.

    Losing all the big players has to worry the FIA. No matter who comes in to replace them, they won't have the necessary pedigree to wow the crowds.

    If you look back at the BTCC in the late 90s it was booming with heavy manufacturer involvement. When the big manufacturers left- either to the WTCC or completely out of the sport- the series took a massive nose-dive and it's still nowhere near what it used to be. I can really see F1 going that way unless something dramatic changes.

    F1 is also losing its way from its core market. The far eastern races are great for a novelty factor, but how many of them are sustainable in the long term? The fans aren't going to them, especially in Turkey, and the teams hate them because they can't take their European transporters with them.

  • Comment number 63.

    Echoing all positive comments about Kobayashi. This guy has a lot of talent and Balls of Steel in a formula one car and I am sure he will get a drive next year because he did in a Toyota in 2 races what many failed to do in a top cars like Ferrari and McClaren in many more races. He defended well against Button in Brazil for 5 laps and he passed Button in Abu Dhabi albeit with a lighter car. That is pure class! I don't agree with DC excuses that Button was on the dusty part of the circuit when Kobayahsi passed him..... Good luck to Toyota they didn't get their money's worth all these years. Long live Kobayahsi! In my annual Balls of Steel Competition (for the most daring and aggressive drivers) he came 4th joint with Sutil in the Brass Balls list with Hamilton coming 1st with Golden Balls of steel, Kimi taking Silver and Webber coming in 3r with Bronze Balls Hahaha

  • Comment number 64.

    "And whereas Renault, Ferrari and McLaren all have motorsport in their corporate blood - in that they absolutely understand what is required to succeed - Toyota never really seemed to have worked it out."

    Ah, yes, there's nothing like an "experts" view on a topic.

    I think, Andrew, by motorsport you mean specifically F1.

    Toyota have won 4 WRC drivers titles and 3 constructor titles. They stopped their involvement to concentrate on the sexier F1.

    They appear to know more about success than Renault, that's for sure. Renault have had two good years as a fully managed team, the rest have been on a par with Toyota's.

    Renault have had success as an engine supplier I'll grant you that, but I still fail to see how that makes motorsport any more in their blood. Surely on that basis, Ford should be in your list, considering they have been an engine supplier for a long time also and have equally competed in WRC, winning championships, plus there is Formula Ford class.

    I think you were trying to group the final manufacturer left in F1 in with two true race teams of F1, where racing was always first and if they built some nice cars off the back of it, great. That was wrong and your statement was wrong.

  • Comment number 65.

    I was just thinking back to the days when there were so many teams that pre-Qualifying was introduced to qualify for Qualifying. A new team called Jordan appeared that started the season in pre-Qualifying and ended up chasing podium finishes. I wonder if any of the new teams will be capable of making that kind of impact?

    What no one wants is many of the established teams leaving and handing over to the neos. Similarly, I am less than convinced about the wisdom of adding new circuits and getting rid of the old ones. There will always be a place for Monaco where, despite the tightness of the circuit, a brave driver can find ways to pass and only a skilled driver can win, but to add Valencia and Singapore was too much of a good thing. This year Valencia seemed less processional than last year (there were one or two overtaking manouevres), but Singapore seems not to have any salvation. Valencia is a spectacular circuit and a wonderful setting; last year the race weekend atmosphere was just amazing (I kept running into the mean, black, BMW Sauber minivans all over town, which was a thrill even for the non race-fans in the family) but, this year, even with two Spanish drivers on the grid, the race lost some of its pizzaz. How long will other new circuits survive where there is no significan local interest?

  • Comment number 66.

    Now Ferrari are saying its down to the sports governing body that teams are dropping out. What a laugh, and they then go on to drawing parrellels with a "Who done it" from Agatha Christie.
    Just how far divorced from reality are they ?
    Just any trick in the book to keep their budgets intact when everyone else is saying "we have no money". Time for them, and everyone else to admit that the circus is over and bubble has burst.
    They are no longer THE top team, the rest of the grid are now in ascendance, and its good for the sport. Ferrari have lost their dynasty of Schumie, Brawn and Todt, and can be seen to slipping back into their old ways of dis array. Oh how the mighty have fallen, and its good to see that Brawn has lost none of his edge. If he sells shares in Brawn GP to Mercedes the wheel will have turned full circle. If that does happen where will that leave Mclaren ?

  • Comment number 67.

    Bye Bye Toyota.
    8 years of dross and leave without a win.
    Their driver line-ups have been banal and uninspiring - picking the wrong Schuey for example.
    How ironic that they now have an exciting driver in Kobayashi and they pull the plug.
    I hope he gets the opportunity for a drive next year, but I'd avoid Renault like the plague...but it won't be at McLaren - that's for Kimi.

    Toyota have proved themselves a busted flush in the F1 fraternity, and it's made me wary of large car manufacturers utilizing and exploiting F1 just to sell x number Priuses for example.
    Their philosophy to F1 and the success needed to build up a heritage is non-existent. As time passes, who will remember Toyota ever contributing anything to the sport?
    Renault do have a motor heritage and I hope they stay, and signing Kubica proves that they know the direction they must take in F1 to have success. Mercedes seem to be the shrewd and clever ones at this moment in time - teaming with McLaren has brought them success and it will only be a matter of time they'll re-brand BrawnGP as Mercedes.

    Toyota won't be missed, and it's a sad indictment that the only good thing to come out in 8 years was Kobayashi...


  • Comment number 68.

    I hate being the old guy giving the history lesson, but Donington was on the Grand Prix calendar as ‘the Donington Grand Prix’ before even the invention of F1. I think that gives it some history.

    And ‘garagiste’ was the deprecatory term used by Enzo for upstarts like Cooper, Brabham, Maclaren, Tyrrel and others that won too many races with too little budget.

    There’s nothing new.

  • Comment number 69.

    ... and didn't Toyota 'leave' the WRC because they were banned, a remarkable achievement for a big factory team.

  • Comment number 70.

    I simply cannot understand why F1 'fans' posting on this blog are so cynical and arrogant in their comments. They need to share their nastiness and bile with the rest of mankind, apparently.

  • Comment number 71.

    Broadly speaking, yes, privateers are replacing manufacturers as team owners. That does change the balance of power in one sense. But in another sense, the balance has hardly changed. The performance of Honda was utterly bad, Renault pretty bad, and Toyota and BMW were mediocre. If your team is bad the expenditure is probably harder to justify. It doesn't put the car maker on everyone's lips as cost-effective marketing (which is what Red Bull is doing), and it doesn't satisfy "we'll just burn through some money on F1 trying to win constructors' titles," either.

    So I don't think the power shifts when new teams replace bad teams. Ironically, viewed as continuity rather than displacement, Honda was back atop the leader board the year after leaving. Only as Brawn.

    My one fear, though is that a vanity entry may be less lasting than a manufacturer. Brawn is already considering a further purchase by Mercedes, it seems. A guy or smaller business with cash may fund a few years, but for good? The one thing a big car maker would seem to provide is lasting corporate personhood, bigger piles of capital, and an inherent commitment to cars and specifically car development. It seems risky to me to bet on Red Bull and Force India as opposed to Ferrari and so forth. Ferrari is a car maker but Red Bull could decide tomorrow to bail on all these sports sponsorships. F1 is better served long term by keeping as many makers as it can on the track.

    With regard to Toyota's exit, "Toyota" opposed the spending cap but then "Toyota" left because it costs too much? On its face, it looks like F1 "Toyota" and corporate "Toyota" were not on the same page. It's a strange contradiction that seems to demand an explanation, even if it's that the young Mr. Toyota felt different about F1 than his predecessor.

  • Comment number 72.

    Can't say how disapointed I am that captain Bash won't get a drive for them next year, The enjoyment of hearing other drivers moan that he dared to try and block them passing him and that he overtook them in a crazy style was my season highlight !

  • Comment number 73.

    WolfiePeters - Hurrah! I'm glad that someone is on the same page as me about the history of Donington. Is it true that went the late Tom Wheatcroft rebuilt the track, they couldn't use the original Melbourne loop as that crossed the border into Derbyshire and they couldn't get permission to relay the track? Or was that something of a rumour that I pick up as fact?

    CNW0429 - Yes, you're right that the French Grand Prix has chopped and changed over the years, but mainly for safelty as Reims, Rouen & Charade were all on public roads and had to change for safety. But it's also odd that the one circuit that established itself as as a great tracks was Paul Richard, which has new been converted to a high-tec test track, owned by Bernie himself. Surely now, he can invest in some now grandstands and open up the old Mistral Straight as there are even longer straights on new circuits now. He can't surely be arguing with himself about how much to pay himself to stage the race. I mean, any money made from the race, he keeps himself. Bizarre!

    Oh, and don't forget that Aintree held a couple of British Grands Prix in the 50s, but you do have a point that Silverstone & Brand Hatch did establish themselves as the British Grand Prix venues.

  • Comment number 74.

    Senorsenor- there's a very good reason why the French GP won't go to Paul Ricard, and you've sort of mentioned it above.

    Bernie owns Paul Ricard, but the GP fees don't go back to him, they go to CVC, the rights holders. Bernie is effectively an employee trying to get them the best deals around the world to make up for the masses they paid for the rights a few years back. Hence why we have government funded races in countries where nobody is interested; CVC get their millions, but the promoters lose millions because nobody buys tickets, and the goverment makes up the shortfall.

    So if the race was held at Paul Ricard, Bernie would have to pay CVC £15 million or whatever it is. But he's smart enough to know that he'll never make a profit on the race because there's not enough French involvement/ interest anymore, and Paul Ricard is quite remote too.

    Put Simply, Bernie's not going to sacrifice his own cash when he can extort it from other countries instead.

    If we had to have a French race I'd have it at Paul Ricard (full length) or Dijon, best 2 circuits in France (other than Le Mans, obviously, but we can't have the race there)

  • Comment number 75.

    All this really shows is that the sport is too expensive, the drivers get paid too much and the whole thing is crazy.

    Do people buy Hondas, Renaults or Toyotas just because their cars are doing well in F1? How many more Yaris or Meganes are sold when the maker's car wins a Grand Prix? It is just about the least effective way of spending an advertising budget. Yes, there are R&D benefits which do spread to the mass market, but again is F1 an effective way of achieving this?

    That is not to say it is an exciting sport which should continue drawing the crowds. but the money spent is crazy>

  • Comment number 76.

    @ 70 pedal2themetal wrote:

    "I simply cannot understand why F1 'fans' posting on this blog are so cynical and arrogant in their comments. They need to share their nastiness and bile with the rest of mankind, apparently."

    I think there are two likely possibilities. Either
    that's why we find F1 so interesting
    or
    it just rubbed off onto us from some of the bosses, big players and piranhas of F1.

  • Comment number 77.

    Toyota were just another team run by accountants, they won't be missed, because let's face it they were hardly noticed anyway.

    I hope all the new teams make it to Melbourne, but with all the verbal attacks from Montezemolo I wouldn't be surprised if only half show up, but then that's still better than the corporate dinosaur teams that will be there.

  • Comment number 78.

    Just want to say this, not sure if you know but quote
    "The future racing at the legendary circuit Spa Francorchamps – traditional home of the Belgian Grand Prix – is in jeopardy after it emerged that the Ardennes circuit has had its licence suspended by the local Council of State until 2026."
    http://www.historic-motor-racing-news.eu/2009/10/defend-spa-francorchamps/

    That's the only decent circuit left in F1 on its way out. again!
    Can anybody verify this story ?
    Another sad loss if it is.

  • Comment number 79.

    #78
    I've seen this mentioned in various places, but nobody seems to be panicking too much. It seems ludicrous that the local officials are trying to close a circuit nearby residents actually like, unlike Croft or Castle Combe. If it wasn't for the circuit nobody would go there and local economy would suffer.

    The Belgian GP is still on the calendar, nobody's said it's going anywhere, so I'm assuming the Belgian GP 2010 will go ahead. Bernie can probably make the problem go away anyway.

  • Comment number 80.

    #78, 79

    From what I've heard from a Belgian friend, the local and national government have been close to wrecking Spa and the Belgian GP for several years through a mixture of incompetence, political correctness and mistaken environmentalism. It would be tragic if it were lost as it's a fantastic circuit. And, returning to an earlier theme, possibly the one with the longest GP history (no doubt someone will correct me).

    Unfortunately, Spa may be another location that Bernie doesn't want to protect (because the Belgians don't have cash to throw at him).

  • Comment number 81.

    i cant wait to see more privateers.i think the sport needs more interesting charachters like malya with force india we all like an underdog and its great to see when they pull a result out of the bag because it shows that you can compete with a relatively small budget.
    how many fans miss jordan i know i do the team were something different from the grey mclaren garage where the drivers arent even alowed to have long hair or a personality.
    i know what everyone is saying about the young japaneese driver he has a certain flair and is great to watch but i would love to see anthony davidson get a drive ,a great driver who never had the equpment to show how capable he is!

  • Comment number 82.

    While I don't disagree with the thrust of the comments about preserving historic tracks and Europe being the centre of gravity for F1 (which it still is despite the increase in flyaways) let's get our facts straight about Abu Dhabi's attendance shall we? I have no idea what the official ticket sales were because (thank God) that sort of thing has never really floated my boat. However, I was actually there for both qualifying and the race and unless my eyes were deceiving me the place was jammed to the rafters, despite the fact that Sunday is a work day. All of the boats in the marina were packed even though 4 day charters were doing the rounds at 200k USD a pop and the all round entertainment at what was a stunning location was excellent. So by all means put the boot into Abu Dhabi for all manner of other things (I have lived down that way for some time and there are a few gripes, believe me) but as for empty grandstands (at least for the F1 race and qualifying)? Not guilty yerhonor

  • Comment number 83.

    I rekon that they will one day be back but they'll be out till atleast 2015

  • Comment number 84.

    I have always been a Ferrari fan and will be a Tifosi for life, that said with the departure of Raikkonen Ferrari steps into another era of dull drivers. Kobayashi is the only person who will make F1 interesting in 2010. It would be nice if STR or Renault picked him up since their mid season replacements were deadbeats.

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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