Q & A - John Howett, President Toyota F1 team
What are the team's chances for the Turkish Grand Prix?
I believe we have a very good chance in Turkey. We are third in the Constructors' Championship and, with the exception of Monaco, we have been competitive everywhere this season. Both our drivers are performing really well at the moment and we know our car is fundamentally strong on normal circuit layouts so we are optimistic.
Why was the Monaco performance so disappointing?
In Barcelona we saw that in sector three - the slowest part of the track - our car was not performing as well as expected and this was magnified in Monaco, where the whole track is low speed. Basically our car is not particularly strong on slow-speed sections and we have to improve this.
What have you done since Monaco to address the problem?
The team back in Cologne has worked extremely hard to understand what happened in Monaco. We have analyzed the Monaco situation based on the actual weekend data, specific wind tunnel tests and even a straight-line aero test. A solution is now being developed from these results.
Has Toyota slipped off the pace since Barcelona?
In terms of results, clearly we have not achieved what we expected in the last two races but I firmly believe our car is inherently very competitive and we will have the results to show that in the coming races. Our car was reasonably strong in Barcelona, particularly in the medium-high speed sections of the lap. Unfortunately we had poor starts and this compromised the race, with Jarno involved in an accident and Timo stuck in traffic. We had a very good chance of finishing in the top six, which would have been a decent result. Monaco was obviously not acceptable but it is a unique lay-out and I have no doubt we will be competitive again in Turkey. We have new parts coming for all of the next races so I believe you will see Toyota fighting at the front again very, very soon.
What about the political situation in Formula 1?
Toyota has, like the other FOTA teams, submitted a conditional entry to the 2010 World Championship and we are hopeful these conditions will be met. Firstly we need a new Concorde Agreement to be signed by all parties before 12 June this year to ensure proper governance; secondly the 2010 regulations must be based on those we have this year with modifications which FOTA has proposed.
How committed is Toyota to Formula 1?
We have consistently said we want to continue to participate in Formula 1 and if our conditional entry is accepted we will commit to the sport until at least the end of the 2012 season. If and when that happens, the unfounded rumors surrounding our future should stop.
Has FOTA agreed to a budget cap in 2010?
No, there is no budget cap contained within the FOTA proposals for 2010 regulations. FOTA has proposed a sensible method of controlling expenditure which can be managed in a very simple, practical manner whilst avoiding external and potentially costly auditing mechanisms. We have put forward a comprehensive document of proposals for the 2010 regulations which we believe will allow Formula 1 to prosper.
What about new teams? Does FOTA support new teams entering Formula 1?
We are happy to see new teams but we made it clear from the start that everybody has to compete under the same rules. Cost reduction was one of FOTA's founding principles and we have reduced the costs of leasing engines and transmissions by over 50%, with further significant savings contained within our proposed 2010 regulations. These include limits on aerodynamic development, restrictions on the use of exotic materials and prohibition of some costly technical activities, such as wheel rim heating, which don't add to the spectacle of Formula 1. We have proposed many effective measures to reduce the cost of entry to, and participation in, Formula 1.
How difficult have the negotiations been?
As everyone involved in Formula 1 knows, it has been a long and, at times, challenging process which is not yet concluded. If the conditions attached to our entry are accepted, I believe Formula 1 will be the winner. It has been extremely gratifying to see the unprecedented level of unity within FOTA. Naturally we are all competing on the track but we all recognized and acted upon the need for cooperation to ensure a viable future for Formula 1 as we know it. The constructive and open atmosphere within the organization gives me great hope for the future health of Formula 1.