Ralf Schumacher has admitted that he was seen to criticise his Toyota team more than most because the drivers were thrust into the media spotlight by the management during his three tough years in Cologne.

Despite the team's ambition and financial backing, Toyota has failed to set the F1 world alight since entering the championship in 2002, with Schumacher and team-mate Jarno Trulli struggling to rack up the 13 they managed in 2007.

"It was very disappointing for both sides, and ended three difficult years," Schumacher reflected during an interview with the Motorsport-Total.com, "In such a group, the pressure to succeed becomes larger, especially if so much money flows and, at the same time, so little comes out [in the way of results]."

With the management reluctant to comment on the team's shortcomings, it was left to the drivers to face the media and, as has been the case throughout his career, Schumacher occasionally let his true feelings show.

"I always tried to stand behind the team, and didn't want to criticise them," he said, "I always had a certain loyalty vis-?-vis my partners, but the Toyota management did not really exist for the media. The drivers stood in the foreground at Toyota. We always had to explain, and therein lay the main problem. Expectations were too high - Toyota always said 'we will win!', but that did not happen."

Ironically, Toyota's end of year statement contained several comments from those higher up the food chain, all admitting that the team had again under-performed in 2007.

"We pushed hard to complete the TF107 early so we could run it for as many hours as possible before the start of the season," president John Howett admitted, "We launched the car in January but, despite a lot of very hard work from the team to improve it, we were unable to achieve the results we had hoped for.

"However, we learned a lot and there were several positive factors. The reliability was especially satisfying and, throughout the season, there were no major mechanical problems with either the chassis or the engine. We believe our engine is of the highest level in and is competitive with any of our competitors. The big focus from our side is aerodynamics, but every part of the car has to be improved for 2008. We will all continue to push very hard to compete with the top teams and achieve our ambitious goals in F1."

Executive vice-president Yoshiaki Kinoshita chose to pin-point the switch to Bridgestone control tyres as a reason for the team's disappointing campaign, while director of technical co-ordination Noritoshi Arai suggested that, aerodynamically, the car was also weak.

"Compared to last year, the balance of the tyre was different - the rear was quite weak compared to the front," Kinoshita explained, "That situation meant we suffered rear tyre drop off in performance and that caused a problem. We tried to deal with the situation by adjusting set-ups to compensate, but it took almost half the season to get this issue under control."

"The TF107 turned out to be too sensitive aerodynamically, so the early part of the season was mostly spent on resolving this issue," Arai added, "It wasn't until the start of the European season that we were able to overcome the that. After that, we continued development in various areas to catch up with our competitors. Our data demonstrated the improvements in car performance, so I don't think our direction was wrong. However, we were unable to catch up with our rivals, which meant that our pace of development was not enough."

Chief engineer Dieter Gass, meanwhile, chose to accentuate the positives from 2007.

"We expected a better year so, ultimately, it has been quite disappointing," he began, "From the car's performance, I believe we were really competing with three other teams to be the fourth quickest team and, on a positive note, we have to compare to last year when we struggling with reliability - this year we had quite good reliability. I
would have liked a better results, of course, but I think it was quite obvious from the beginning of the year already that it would be difficult to achieve that. We made some good improvements to the car through the season but, ultimately, we were unable to catch up with the car in front of us."

No doubt frustrated by frequent mid-grid starts - and, on some occasions, a spot in the bottom six - Schumacher admitted that facing a repeat in 2008 was one of the reasons why he would not feature in the race to partner Adrian Sutil at Force India.

"One must look at it that way," he concluded, "I have had three difficult years at Toyota, and this team begins from zero, so it would not have been the correct place for me."

 

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