MAY 24, 1999
Will Toyota reconsider?
HONDA's decision to go back on its commitment to running its own Formula 1 team may have a dramatic effect on rival Toyota's plans in Grand Prix racing. Toyota is planning to enter its own operation on F1 but with Honda having decided to revert to being simply an engine manufacturer, it is quite possible that Toyota may adopt a similar approach, particularly if one the F1 teams was able to offer the Japanese giant a large sum of money for its engines.
At the moment Toyota is planning to base its team in Cologne, Germany. If the entry which was going to HondaÊRacingÊDevelopments is taken up by someone else Toyota will not only have to invest heavily in its engine, chassis and personnel but it may also have to pay millions for an entry. This is going to run into hundreds of millions of dollars and there will come a point at which it no longer makes financial sense to continue.
As British American Racing has now proved, a large sum of money from a team could very easily change Toyota's mind. Such a deal gives the company plenty of coverage while saving a lot of cash. This is very popular with the accountants.
The current dearth of F1 engines is creating a situation in which well-connected teams such as Benetton and Sauber will look to their sponsors to pay car manufacturers to build engines for them, just as TAG McLaren did with Porsche in the early 1980s. Porsche has often said that it would be happy to build a new Formula 1 engine if someone is willing to pay and others may follow.
An obvious move now would be for Sauber to convince Petronas to offer a large sum of money to Toyota for engines in the year 2001 or 2002...