Panasonic Toyota Racing today unveiled its new TF107 challenger at the Expo XXI conference centre in Cologne, Germany.
Toyota is the only one of the 11 F1 teams to go into the new season with the same engine, the same tyre partner, and the same two race drivers. That unique degree of continuity will enable the team to hit the ground running and build on the experience gained over recent seasons.
Toyota has ambitious goals in Formula 1 and is aiming for success in 2007. "Our fundamental challenge this year is to get the first victory," says Chairman and Team Principal Tsutomu Tomita.
"We announced that a year ago, but we failed to succeed in 2006. And therefore we want to repeat that challenge in 2007. I know all the other teams are working very hard, particularly the top three. We have five years experience in F1, but still we are young in comparison with the top teams, therefore we have to be modest about it. But we would like to challenge them.
"I’m very, very positive about this, and I personally think we should attack from round one. Therefore it’s very important to conduct some productive testing during the winter to fully understand the car and the tyres."
The team has been strengthened in its quest for success by the arrival of George Tadashi Yamashina, who took over as Vice Chairman of Toyota Motorsport in December. Yamashina will compliment the roles of Tomita and President John Howett, forming a management trio to lead Panasonic Toyota Racing to success.
"Tomita-san, John and myself are like three arrows in the Japanese saying – one arrow breaks easily, two is harder to break and with three arrows you cannot break them," he says. "Of course I am excited by the task. Whenever I get an assignment, no matter how hard the challenge is, I am happy. That is my attitude.
"The most important target to aim for this season is the first victory for Toyota in Formula 1," he said. "We want to be on the top step of the podium. We have improved in all areas, aerodynamics, suspension and gear change."
Last year the team did not meet its high expectations it had after success in 2005 but there is great confidence that the TF107 will see Toyota competing at the front again.
"Our ambition has always been to win – that to me is why we are here and why we are racing," agrees Howett. "I think we built a fairly good platform in 2005, and last year we didn’t move forward sufficiently from that platform. I think in terms of speed we had the third quickest package on the grid.
"Looking at race pace and qualifying pace, we were closing the gap on Renault towards the end of the season, but Ferrari was still in front. Although the results didn’t show it, I think we are now capable of running with the top teams in terms of speed."
The team had a frustrating 2006 season but, in the spirit of kaizen, or continuous improvement, the new car benefits from all the knowledge and experience gained. With the right people in place and the will to win, the TF107 is the product of the team’s potential.
"We have addressed reliability this year," Howett confirms. "And we have resolved issues like the launch system, which we fixed at the end of last season, and which cost us dearly. We’re improving the car, flat out, all the time. So I think we have the potential to win this year, and I’m disappointed that we didn’t deliver it in 2006."
While there is continuity in other areas, the TF107 is a completely new car, with virtually no parts carried over from the TF106 and TF106B that preceded it.
"It’s pretty extensively changed in terms of basic lay-out," says Howett. "When we went from the V10 to V8 the back of the engine effectively stayed in the same place, and the chassis and fuel tank filled the space where the front two cylinders of the V10 were. Now we’ve moved to engine forward, and yet worked really hard to still have a big tank. The gearbox is longer, and we will run a seamless shift for the first time.
"Aerodynamics is the big focus, and a lot of the chassis layout has been designed to give better aero opportunity. The whole monocoque concept has been modified in terms of height and how it sits. Before it was quite a low car, now it’s higher. We have improved the suspension, and we have some interesting developments in the pipeline that we hope will give us performance."
In 2006 Toyota made the switch to Bridgestone tyres, giving it a head start in cooperating when the Japanese company becomes the sole supplier this year.
The experience gained in adapting to new tyres will benefit the team and help it get the maximum out of the tyres available.
"We switched to Bridgestone tyres one year ago," says Tomita. "In the beginning it we had some problems. I would compare it to the weather. In the winter testing and at the beginning of the season it was cloudy but in the middle of the year the clouds began to disappear and towards the end it was perfectly sunny!
"It was down and up through the year, but it was a very good learning year in 2006. So if I talk about 2007, and going to single tyre supplier, we have learned a lot about tyre treatment, particularly about temperature, suspension geometry and downforce."