AUGUST 28, 2002
A surprise from Toyota
The announcement that Jacques Villeneuve is not going to CART next year has started a domino effect in Formula One with Olivier Panis being named as the new driver for Toyota. Mika Salo and Allan McNish are both being dropped but Toyota has yet to name its other driver for next year. The signing of Panis is totally logical as the Frenchman is a fine test driver and knows how to motivate a team. Having worked at McLaren he knows how top teams operate and can pass on that knowledge to Toyota.
What is surprising is that Toyota has terminated Mika Salo's contract, in addition to announcing that Allan McNish will not stay. It was expected that one would be retained - if only for the sake of stability.
Panis has agreed a two year deal with Toyota and all the signs now are that the other driver will be Cristiano da Matta, the soon-to-be CART champion. This will give Toyota a nice mix of experience and raw speed.
The important thing now will be for the team to build a better chassis than was the case this year. The engine is already one of the most powerful in F1 and with a good chassis the team will be in a position to make more of an impact. The team will need to be tweaked some more with new people coming in to certain positions but overall things are looking good.
It is expected that Toyota will soon name Cristiano da Matta as the other driver.
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