Amind speculation that Timo Glock's 'advised rest' from practice at Suzuka could be a precursor to the German's departure from Toyota F1, president John Howett has admitted that the team is eyeing some bigger names cast aside in the 2009 silly season.
Glock was replaced by reserve Kamui Kobayashi for Friday practice at the Japanese Grand Prix, less than 24 hours after insisting rumours of his demise were 'b******t', but, with Toyota's future in the sport still hanging by a thread, Howett admitted that both Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica were on his radar for 2010.
Both drivers have been left without drives for next season, Raikkonen after being replaced by Fernando Alonso at Ferrari and Kubica by BMW's decision to withdraw from F1, although neither will be without suitors for long. The Finn has already been linked to a return to McLaren - in place of countryman Heikki Kovalainen - while Kubica has been listed among the potential replacements for Alonso at Renault, despite the Enstone team's own uncertain future in F1.
"We have always expressed interest in Kimi," Howett told Reuters
reporters from Suzuka, "We know who we would like in the car and we are working hard on it. We need to keep all our options open and, to be able to catch somebody if the opportunity comes, we need two seats available."
Veteran Jarno Trulli is thought 'very unlikely' to remain at the Cologne-based team for another season - and could be facing the end of his F1 career - while Howett admitted that Glock had not lived up to expectation after arriving at the team as GP2 champion in 2008. Despite the German's insistence that his tenure with Toyota is not over, the team confirmed ahead of the weekend that it had allowed its option on his service to lapse, freeing him to talk to other teams.
"He could still be in the car next year, but we wanted to keep our options open and, if we didn't release him by a certain date, we would be fixed for 2010," Howett explained, "We like Timo very much, [and] he did a great job [in Singapore], but we have a car that is more regularly capable of being on the podium and much closer to the top this year. We are not delivering, and there are things beyond the team and the chassis.
"We are talking to him but, honestly speaking, we feel that [second place] could have been the result in other races if we could qualify in that position. I am sorry, but it is very a tough life, and our job is to deliver results."
Acknowledging that drivers - especially those hoping to be challenging for titles in 2010 - could be put off by the undertainty surrounding Toyota's future, Howett insisted that his was not the only team pondering its position in F1.
"I think there is a lot of uncertainty about a lot of teams to be honest, [it's just that] we seem to be the focus of everybody's attention," he said, "But, to be blunt, there are a lot of teams that, on the inside, we hear rumours of that are more severe than our condition."