Toyota is not wrong when it says that “Quality Revolution” is its yardstick. Toyota, apart from being a leading car manufacturer, is also a 50 –year-old racing heritage. These 50 years have seen a remarkable revolution in technology and motorsports without compromising on quality. From being a part of Round Australia Trial in 1957 to winning four World Rally Championships, Toyota has been dominating the racing world. In January 1999, Toyota decided to end its commitments in rallies to channelize its resources into Formula One. The Toyota Racing team qualified as the 12th entry in the Formula One season of 2002, with their prototype TF101. Extensive data collection and thorough study of aerodynamics effected the development of the TF102 which was test-driven by Allan McNish and Finn Mika Salo. The Gustav Brunner designed TF102, rumoured to have been built with a baffling budget, failed to exhibit excellence in its first season of F1 with only two points in the 2002 F1 season.
In 2003, Cristiano Da Matta from the American Champ Car series and former BAR driver Olivier Panis were appointed to drive through the season. McNish and Salo were not offered the position due to unsatisfactory performances in the previous season. Toyota managed to get its best finish at fifth place in Germany and piled up 16 points to stand eighth in the Constructors’ Championship.
The 2004 edition of Formula One saw a lot of undulations in Toyota’s podium aspirations. It was disqualified from the Canadian Grand Prix due to the use of illegal parts. If this was not enough to dampen the spirits, it was compelled to replace Cristiano Da Matta by Ricardo Zonta for his poor performance early in the season. Zonta drove for four races and was replaced by Jarno Trulli, who had just ended his stint with Renault. Fortunately for Zonta, Panis announced his retirement before the Brazilian Grand Prix and paved way for him. The team managed just nine points and stood eight in the constructors’ standings.
In its prowess of being one of the front runners, Toyota engineered the TF105 for the 2005 season and brought in yet another change in the team composition with Ralf Schumacher as a replacement for Zonta. The change finally worked in Toyota’s favour as Trulli finished second in both Malaysian and Bahrain Grands Prix. Schumacher finished at number three on two occasions in the Hungarian and Chinese Grands Prix which took the team’s overall tally to 88 points in 2005. But the following year did not bring much luck into the team. Both Trulli and Schumacher failed to display their skills and could only manage to draw 35 points for their team to place it sixth in the constructors’ list. In a surprising event, Toyota sacked Mike Gascoyne, the team’s technical head who was majorly responsible for the respectable result in the previous year. He was reported to have administrative issues with Toyota head John Howett.
In the 2007 season, the Cologne based Japanese team Toyota agreed to provide engines to former constructor champions, Williams. However, this season none of the two Toyota drivers performed credibly. As a result, Toyota accumulated 13 points in all without any spectacular race finishes. At the end of the season Ralf Schumacher quit Toyota Racing. The following season, Schumacher was replaced by Timo Glock, former GP2 winner and Trulli was retained. Glock impressed everyone with his fantastic drive in Hungary to second place while Trulli continued to bring in points and finished third in France. In all, the 2008 edition of Formula One proved to be helpful for Toyota with a score of 56 points, finishing fifth on the constructors’ list. Toyota seems to be good contenders for the future competitions.
The next season was also its last in the sport. The Japanese car manufacturer announced at the end of 2009 that it no longer wishes to participate in the championship. The team had 5 podium finishes in the whole of the season and accumulated 59.5 points en route to finishing 5th in its last season in the sport. Toyota became the third team after Honda and BMW to exit the sport in a matter of a year.