John Howett has insisted there is no pressure on Toyota's Formula 1 team to turn around its fortunes within the sport from the company's Japanese base, but he did acknowledge that in order to re-establish its credibility the squad needs to start winning – and soon.
Following a disappointing 2006 campaign and desultory 2007, the Cologne-based outfit's motorsport president is aware Toyota must return to the kind of form it displayed back in 2005 – its fourth year in the top flight – when Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher between them notched up 88 points to secure fourth spot in the constructors' championship. That is 13 points more than the team has registered in its five other seasons put together.
“We have to do better than we did in 2007,” Howett admitted, “and I think more importantly we want
to do better. We only exist to win. We have similar resources I'm sure to many of the top teams; the difference really is the people we have.
“The competitive pressure of Formula 1 means the design development is remorseless – we start on the following season's car before the current season's car even runs. Going into this season we feel in good shape, but on the other hand we have to be paranoid that there are a lot of other very good teams and competitors out there, so we need to make sure we squeeze the maximum out of our package.
“We are sure we have a very strong and competitive team. Ultimately we have to work harder, smarter and faster than our competitors, and I'm sure the results will come.”
Praising new addition Timo Glock on the driving line-up, Howett described the German GP2 champion as 'a quick and hungry driver who is determined to add to our results this year', whilst his young charge went on to repay that vote of confidence by topping the timesheets on the final day of this week's group test in Jerez, with nine of the eleven teams present.
The 55-year-old also dismissed speculation Toyota would quit the sport should it fail to succeed, and moved to underline the fact that on the car side the biggest gains on the TF108 compared to its predecessor had been made in the aerodynamics department. That was Toyota's fundamental Achilles' heel in 2007, caused by an over-reliance on an evolutionary rather than revolutionary process of chassis development. As a result, the new challenger falls very much into the latter category.
“Historically we were using what we had been successful with in 2005,” Howett explained of the Japanese concern's below-par 2006 and 2007 campaigns. “That's one of the reasons we didn't evolve and push the performance further.
“Clearly we want [the quest for victory] to stop as soon as possible. We've changed a lot and have a good team of people here. The biggest pressure isn't really coming from outside; it comes from our passion to win. We want to turn it around and show we are a credible team that is capable of performing at a high level in Formula 1.
“A lot of manufacturers remained when Ferrari was dominant for eight years – there are lots of factors. It all depends on the platform F1 provides, and whether the challenge remains. For us the primary factor is that we want to win.”
Team principal Tadashi Yamashima, meanwhile – who joined Toyota's grand prix operation in December 2006 with a three-year remit from Toyota Corporation President Katsuaki Watanabe to produce results – was also keen to play down any talk of pressure on Toyota to win, adding it had not been an embarrassment for him to see the Toyota-powered Williams team finish ahead of the manufacturer outfit in the final standings last year.
“It's a very difficult and complex world in Formula 1,” Yamashima acknowledged, “and there's still a lot we have to learn.”