Toyota's Formula 1 budget – once understood to be the largest in the sport – has been 'cut again and again' in response to the global credit crunch, falling car sales and rival manufacturer Honda's withdrawal from competition at the end of last year...and further cuts and job losses cannot be ruled out.
Tadashi Yamashina admitted yesterday that – after no fewer than 123 grand prix starts from seven seasons in the top flight that have failed to yield or even threaten so much as a single victory – the Tokyo-based company came close to following Honda out of the F1 exit door prior to receiving Panasonic's renewed sponsorship commitment [see separate story – click here
The future of the Cologne-based outfit was most seriously plunged into doubt when, just before Christmas, Toyota announced its first operating loss in more than seven decades, and like many other high-profile car makers, it has had to draw upon government financial aid to help it to weather the economic crisis. According to international news agency Reuters
, dozens of employees have lost their jobs under the restructuring programme.
With poor on-track return for its considerable investment – an estimated $300 million was spent in 2008, second only to Honda, for just two rostrum finishes and fifth place in the constructors' title chase – the manufacturer's continued presence in F1 has been repeatedly questioned, both within and outside of the company.
“Our Formula 1 budget was cut again and again from its original figure,” revealed Toyota F1 team principal Yamashina. “It was cut again after Honda's announcement that they were leaving F1, and within a month the figure was reduced again after Toyota's end-of-yearly earnings target was revised.
“I'm not able to put a figure on how much the Formula 1 budget was slashed by, but in all my time at Toyota I have never seen cuts like it. It has been very difficult. Laying off people and cutting costs is part of business. As a business you have to do what you can to survive.
“No matter how much we have to reduce the budget by or how far we have to downsize the team, that is what business people have to think about. We're cutting down on tests and we will keeping spending under tight control. It's a business and unless we make the team viable, next year we may have to cut costs further.
“Having said that, there are other factors too. Winning and results are important – there's little point doing it if we are crawling home in 17th or 18th place in every race.”