APRIL 26, 2007

Tomita to leave Toyota F1

Tsutomu Tomita, the chairman of Toyota Motorsport and team principal of Toyota F1, is to leave the team at the end of June. Tomita was the driving force behind Toyota's decision to enter Formula 1 in 2002 and has been with the team since 2003. He became team principal in January 2004. Tomita will be replaced by Tadashi Yamashina, who was appointed Vice Chairman of the team in December. There have been rumours that Tomita would be moved aside for some weeks.

Tomita (64) will return to Japan for other duties although the firm traditionally retires its people at 65.

Yamashina, who is in charge of the Motorsport Division and Motorsport Business Management Department, has a big job ahead of him given that most F1 observers see Toyota's problems stemming from the fact that there is too much corporate involvement in the management of the team and not enough drive from racing people who want change to be made quickly. This was the problem that led Mike Gascoyne to depart a year ago as the Toyota management would not accept Gascoyne's opinions about what was wrong with the team and how it needed to be changed. This sent out a very bad signal in the F1 community which may dissuade other top engineers from joining the organisation.

To change that perception is going to be hard work and Yamashima may have to make other changes needed to convince the F1 circus that Toyota really is serious about winning with its own team. The fact that customer team Williams has a faster, if less reliable, car in its first year of the relationship is an indication that Toyota needs to improve.

"I will continue the challenge he has pursued over the past years with the same courage and applying vigorous creativity as we strive to become a winning team in the worlds most severe and demanding motorsport, Formula 1," Yamashima said.