Toyota has withdrawn from F1 racing, with its last race being the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Japanese vehicle manufacturer, Toyota, is based in Cologne (Germany) and runs the Formula One team, Toyota F1. The Toyota team is also known as Panasonic Toyota Racing. The racing life of the Toyota team started in 1972. Ove Anderson, a Swedish driver, represented Toyota in the RAC Rally of Great Britain. Their original name was Toyota Team Europe that would later become Toyota Motorsport. Together with drivers Didier Auriol and Carlos Sainz, Toyota Motorsport secured a few Drivers’ titles, but was banned from the FIA in 1995. They were banned due to running on illegal parts, and their struggle with rival teams started to increase. They failed twice, in winning the Le Mans 24 Hours, and decided to end their Rally efforts.
Toyota F1 then turned their attention to the Formula One circuit. Instead of teaming up with legendary outfits such as McLaren or Williams, Toyota F1 chose to build up their own team. They managed to secure a 12th entry in the Formula One Championship for the year 2002. In their debut season, Toyota F1, had drivers Mika Salo and Allan McNish but only managed to score two points throughout the year. Even though both drivers did outstanding jobs for the Toyota teams’ debut year, they were not offered positions for 2003. Instead, the Toyota team recruited Cristiano da Matta and Oliver Panis. During the 2003 season, Toyota did secure a few points finishes and managed to increase their two points, from the previous season, to sixteen. On the Constructors Championship, they ended in 8th position.
In 2004, Toyota was once again in trouble with the running of illegal parts, and was disqualified from the Canadian Grand Prix race. Matta left the Toyota Team, after the German Grand Prix. Ricardo Zonta replaced Matta, but was replaced by Jarno Trulli after four rounds. Oliver Panis decided that it was time to retire from racing, and Zonta completed the final race of the season. More controversy hit the team, as it was accused of industrial espionage, after complaints that the Toyota TF04 was very similar to the Ferrari F2003-GA. Strangely enough, during investigations, Toyota refused to send information to Italy, in fear the Ferrari might take advantage of their data that they had mixed together with Ferrari’s data.
Jarno Trulli remained with the Toyota F1 team for the 2005 season, but Ralf Schumacher replaced Ricardo Zonta. Even though the season started well, Toyota soon saw themselves falling by the way side, unable to remain at the same pace, as the ever developing rivals. Despite the set backs, it still remained a successful year for the Toyota Team.
The Toyota F1 team changed from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres in 2006. It was thought that the early release of their new car would give them a head start on the rival teams, but the car did not perform as expected. They did still manage to secure thirty-five points and a 6th place position.
Both Jarno Trulli and Schumacher will remain with the Toyota team for the 2007 season. Toyota will also be supplying the William team with engines, replacing the Cosworth engines that the Williams team was running with in 2006.