Sheer scale of Toyota effort impresses rivals

THE sheer scale of the Toyota F1 effort has started to dawn on rival F1 teams amidst rumors circulating at this week's Barcelona test that the Japanese car giant had committed to a $1.45 billion budget - $288 million annually - for its initial five year program.

If this is true then it means that Toyota have completely re-written the commercial terms of reference in the F1 business as it is doubtful that any other team - even Ferrari or McLaren - could approach that sort of investment in the F1 business. Sources close to the team also suggest that Toyota's competition department has deliberately set its sights low in a bid to ensure that the management in Tokyo is never disappointed at its year-on-year progress. It is believed that the stated ambition in 2002 is to make sure that the cars qualify within the 107 per cent cut-off at every race, something which they are expected to do with ease if the 850-bhp-plus output claimed for the Toyota V10 engine actually proves to be the case.

It is also already quite clear that several drivers who have contracts with their current F1 teams which expire at the end of the 2002 season are keeping a very careful watching brief on Toyota's progress with a mind to a possible lucrative transfer in 2003.

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