Recently-crowned F1 2009 World Champion Jenson Button has admitted that Toyota's departure is 'sad' news and 'a pity' for the sport - as he opined that the newcomers set to swell the grid in 2010 'won't be competitive straight off'.

Toyota has joined Honda, BMW and Bridgestone in a manufacturer-dominated exile from the top flight over the last twelve months, leaving Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Renault as the sole remaining car makers on the grid - though there are even suspicions that the latter may not be hanging around for long [see separate story - click here]. In their place will arrive USF1, Campos, Manor, Lotus and possibly Qadbak-Sauber.

Button, though, suggests that the new boys will take some time to get up-to-speed in 2010 - and lamented Toyota's passing, after eight seasons at the highest level during which the Japanese manufacturer had failed to reach the top step of the podium. The Brawn GP star has first-hand experience of his own of a parent company pulling the plug, following Honda's sudden and unexpected pull-out at the end of last year.

"It's sad," mused the 29-year-old, quoted by Auto Trader. "I thought they would continue, but they haven't been able to, which is a pity for Formula 1 and obviously a pity for Toyota. Hopefully we can survive without them, [with] two manufacturers leaving this year.

"A couple of new teams are arriving, but they won't be competitive straight off, so it's sad, but they obviously have their reasons, as Honda did."

2009 world championship runner-up Sebastian Vettel echoed Button's regret, and expressed his fears for the hundreds of staff currently employed at the team's Cologne headquarters in Germany.

"I think it's an extreme pity, and very sudden - a horrible shock," the Red Bull Racing star told Bild newspaper. "Naturally it's worst of all for the 600 people that work in Cologne. The question is what happens now with them? I hope that an investor turns up who can buy the team."

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