The input of both Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock in Toyota's impressive 2008 turnaround in Formula 1 cannot be underestimated, senior team members at the big-budget Japanese outfit have insisted.
With 25 points on the board – more than its final total last year – and leading the battle over fourth position in the constructors' world championship, Toyota has already gone some way to banishing the memories of a difficult past two seasons, when the Cologne-based concern fell from grace in spectacular style, registering just 35 and 13 points respectively, compared to the 88 notched up back in 2004, its best campaign to-date in the top flight.
“From the very beginning of pre-season testing we saw that the TF108 was achieving one of its most important improvement targets, which was global stability and balance consistency,” explained senior general chassis manager Pascal Vasselon, highlighting the step forward the '08 machine represents over its unloved TF107 predecessor.
“Then, just before the opening race in Melbourne, the performance came. We had a very good test session right before race one, then obviously we have made a step in terms of the performance of the car and global performance of the team.”
Trulli's hard-fought fourth place in Malaysia – genuinely up in amongst the front-running Ferraris, McLaren-Mercedes' and BMW-Saubers – was equalled by Glock's popular showing two-and-a-half months later in Canada, and bettered by the Italian's fine run to the bottom step of the rostrum the following time out at Magny-Cours in France.
That result marked Toyota's first podium finish in more than two years and was a distinctly poignant moment, coming just days after the untimely death of the squad's first team principal Ove Andersson in a rallying accident
“It was a great, great end to the race and a fantastic job by the whole team,” stressed Toyota Motorsport President John Howett. “It was very rewarding for the people who had worked so hard.”
“That was a very emotional race,” concurred chief race and test engineer Dieter Gass. “We were on the podium again after such a long time, and what made this even sweeter was that we were able to dedicate the result to Ove Andersson.”
Between them, Trulli and Glock have collected seven points' finishes from the opening ten races of the campaign, with the former marrying blistering raw speed to his canny experience and the latter gradually finding his feet at the pinnacle of international motor racing, and overcoming a run of ill-fortune and a brace of high-speed crashes in Australia and Germany just under a fortnight ago with his trademark resilience and enthusiasm that have re-invigorated the team.
“Timo had to adapt his driving style slightly at the very beginning, which I think is understandable,” explained Gass, pointing out that the current F1 field is comprised of no fewer than ten grand prix-winners, with just eight points-scoring positions up for grabs at each race.
“He came from GP2, so initially the car didn't suit his driving style so much, but over the first races he has adapted very well and has shown he is very much up-to-speed by delivering some strong performances.”