Just a day after denying that his future with the Toyota F1 team was in jeopardy, Timo Glock found himself 'dropped' by the squad on the grounds of ill health.
The German coughed his way through Thursday's press conference, but insisted that he would be behind the wheel when practice got underway on Friday. However, when the green light went on at Suzuka, it was reserve Kamui Kobayashi that rolled out of pit-lane, with Toyota insisting that Glock had been too ill to take part.
"Timo is suffering from a very heavy cold and fever, so has been advised to rest by the team doctor in order to enable him to recover in time to compete in qualifying and the Japanese Grand Prix itself," an official Toyota statement claimed, as the 23-year old GP2 Asia champion readied himself for his first official F1 session.
Cynics, however, believe that Glock will remain on the sidelines for the rest of the weekend, giving the Japanese team an opportunity to run a Japanese driver in the Japanese Grand Prix as it fights to remain on the grid for 2010 in the face of pressure to curtail its operations due to the financial climate.
The team has yet to confirm either of its drivers for 2010, casting doubts over veteran Jarno Trulli's future as well, but the rumour mill after last weekend's Singapore Grand Prix - where Glock finished second to Lewis Hamilton - was more concerned with Glock's impending departure - something the German strenuously denied on arrival in Japan.
“I think the stories after the race on Sunday were the funniest I've ever read on the internet,” Glock said, “[For people to say I was] fired on Saturday after qualifying is just b******t.
“The point is that we already had a couple of discussions a couple of weeks ago and we are open with Toyota, Toyota is open to me. We have the possibility to look around, and that's it really. There is nothing new, there were no discussions over the weekend about any contract situation or whatever.”
Although he has tested an F1 car in the past, having been Toyota's reserve for two seasons, Kobayashi has yet to drive one in competition, and arrives at Suzuka on the back of a disappointing GP2 Series campaign, in which he failed to live up to his billing as Asia Series champion. Despite that, however, he is still being tipped as the next Japanese driver to break into F1, possibly at the same time as Kazuki Nakajima - currently number two at Toyota-powered Williams - is facing the axe.
"It is a pity Timo is not feeling well today, but I am grateful for the team's trust in me to take part in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix," Kobayashi commented, "I have experienced the TF109 already and I am looking forward to trying it out at Suzuka, even though it is only for practice. I will do my best to contribute to the team's preparations - and, of course, I wish Timo a very fast recovery."