Toyota have hinted that on the basis of pre-season Formula 1 testing, they have produced the 'fastest' package on the 2009 grid in the shape of the TF109 – with nobody really knowing just how the running order will shake out when all 20 cars take to the track in anger for the first time in the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix at the end of the month.
Though the big-budget Japanese manufacturer's new challenger has rarely topped the timesheets, it has remained a consistently strong presence since its launch back in January – only the second of the dramatically different 2009 machines to break cover.
What's more, Jarno Trulli and team-mate Timo Glock have kept Toyota firmly inside the top four during this week's group test in Barcelona, and whilst most teams continue to play their cards close to their chests, an unnamed engineer from the Cologne-based outfit has revealed to German magazine Auto Motor und Sport
: “Taking into consideration the fuel weights, we had the fastest car in the field.”
Those sentiments are corroborated in part by chief race and test engineer Dieter Gass, who has suggested that 'we can look forward to Melbourne where we hope to keep up our pre-season testing form', but there is some scepticism within the paddock about the team's brash claims.
With the tradition in F1 to give little away until the real action gets underway when the season starts, some have contended that the boasts are little more than an effort to talk up Toyota's performance on a day when the world's largest car maker announced that it is to slash ten per cent off the salary of 4,000 of its UK-based employees.
Ever since rival Honda's withdrawal from competition at the end of last year – and indeed even before that – there have been fevered rumours that Toyota could be the next to follow suit, and the squad's motorsport president John Howett has already warned at the launch of the TF109 that 'if we have a weak season we have no future' in the sport.