Toyota seem intent on getting off on the wrong F1 foot

TOYOTA may still be eight months away from their F1 debut, but the Japanese team seems hell-bent on irritating the hell out of its rivals even before it has officially arrived on the Grand Prix grid.

After complaints from their racing chief Ove Andersson to the effect that "we are not welcome in F1," the Japanese company is now provoking its rivals by indicating that it proposes to ignore the ban on track testing which will be implemented for ten weeks from the middle of October until the end of December.

Toyota's also contends that, as a newcomer, it does not have to abide by these rules until the start of 2002, its first active season in the F1 business.

However, suggestions that it can defer its official entry into the World Championship until January 1 next are being challenged by established teams. Entries officially close on November 11 and rival teams are calling for the FIA to make it plain to Toyota, whose car is not yet competitive, that they must fall into line.

"Once Toyota's entry for next year's world championship is accepted, they are in the same contractual situation and are obliged to abide by the same rules and obligations as everybody else," said McLaren Managing Director Martin Whitmarsh at Silverstone last weekend.

Quite why Andersson should feel that his rivals should show any affection or approval for Toyota's F1 debut is almost beyond comprehension in the minds of many team principals. "Just another motor company set to compete in F1 as long as it suits them," shrugged one at Silverstone last week.

Far from "not being welcome" in F1, the feeling amongst the other teams is that both Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley have bent over backwards trying to make Toyota feel a member of the F1 fraternity. There has been a deafening silence from both of the most influential men in the F1 business who, the other teams believe, should be telling Toyota to abide by the testing restrictions. Or perhaps think about deferring their entry until 2003.

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