The announcement of Toyota's decision to enter Formula One was made in January 1999, and now, three years later they are preparing to enter the sport in the debut season. Toyota has an ambitious long-term vision of being able to challenge for the FIA Formula 1 Constructor and Driver titles. It's an exciting vision that demands an enormous commitment of resources and time, requiring the company to leverage all of its world-leading skills, systems and technology.
deciding to design and build both engine and chassis from scratch, Toyota has made a huge commitment to its F1 program and the full resources of Toyota will be available to the team to ensure the best possible result. The V10 engine has been entirely designed and built in-house while the chassis has been under design since mid 1999.
Their first ever Formula One car was launched on the 23rd of March 2001 at the team's home circuit of Paul Ricard in the south of France. This momentous event preceded an extensive test program with drivers Mika Salo and Allan McNish, which lasted throughout the 2001 season. During the course of their extensive testing program, Toyota travelled to eleven different Grand Prix circuits worldwide as well as carrying out numerous sessions at Paul Ricard in order to not only develop the car, but to also build itself up as a team.
Now with the 2002 Formula One world championship upon us, they will begin the season as the new boys on the grid, entering the pinnacle of Motorsports for their first attempt at rivaling other engine manufacturers. With other success under their belts, F1's newest team will be giving all in their power to work their way up the grid as quickly as possible.
Allan McNish and Mika Salo were still the designated drivers for the formative year where the team learnt and grew. Initial testing showed a few glitches in their armour, and they finished their debut season in last place with two points to their credit. Before the year was over, it was announced that both drivers were to be replaced and they would start 2003 with Frenchman Olivier Panis and 2002 CART champion, Cristiano da Matta.
Panis brought experience to the team and da Matta enthusiasm. Together they scored 16 points for the Cologne-based squad, thus clinching eighth place. In 2004 both Panis and da Matta raced again for Toyota.
2004 was meant to be the season that Toyota made some serious progress towards the front of the field and with the signing of Technical Director Mike Gascoyne in December of 2003 from Renault, there was a great deal of hope that the TF104 would be the team's really solid chassis. Sadly, this was not the case. In 2003, the team scored 16 points, one year later the team scored nine. Add to that an unstable driver lineup and more managerial shuffles and you have a team that is not performing to its potential.
Heading into the 2005 season, Toyota wish to put the events of 2004 behind them. Olivier Panis takes on the role of test driver while Cristiano da Matta has been banished to Champ Car in the US. Armed with a new TF105, Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli are set for the 2005 season - a year in which Toyota must perform.