If, as is being increasingly rumoured, Toyota does elect to walk away from F1 when a decision about its future is taken later this month, it would leave Kamui Kobayashi facing quite literally a 'raw' deal indeed.
It had been anticipated that a final resolution would be reached when the Japanese manufacturer's executive board holds its annual end-of-year meeting in Tokyo on 15 November to approve – or decline – the budget for 2010, but authoritative German magazine Auto Motor und Sport
has now revealed that there will be a separate announcement a week earlier, on 8 November, concerning the company's Cologne-based F1 operation.
Toyota is the world's largest car-maker, but in the wake of the global credit crunch it revealed its first annual loss in some seven decades – and insiders have been pessimistic for some time about the likelihood of the F1 project continuing into a tenth consecutive campaign.
“[Japanese] auto and auto-part makers are questioning what they can gain now by spending hundreds of millions of yen in taking part in F1,” explained Tatsuya Mizuno, a motoring analyst at the Mizuno Credit Advisory.
Toyota F1 currently has no drivers signed for 2010 – with 2009 pairing Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock both tipped to depart the fray, to newcomer Lotus and Renault respectively – but Kobayashi, who has impressed mightily on his two appearances in the top flight so far in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, has been widely touted as all-but a shoe-in to replace one of them, with overtures being made to former world champion and Ferrari refugee Kimi Raikkonen to fill the other cockpit.
The reigning GP2 Asia Series Champion – who battled energetically with new world champion Jenson Button both at Interlagos and around the all-new Yas Marina street circuit, en route
to sixth spot at the chequered flag in the UAE – has confessed that he has 'no budget' to fall back upon should no drive be forthcoming for 2010.
“I would probably go back to Japan to maybe work with my father in his sushi restaurant,” the 23-year-old is quoted as having said by motorsport.com
. “It was like that two months ago.”
Bad news for Toyota, conversely, would likely represent a much brighter prospect for Qadbak Sauber, which is waiting on a 13th F1 slot to become available following parent company BMW's withdrawal.