Panasonic Toyota Racing
On The Right Track: Solid Progress for Panasonic Toyota Racing
With two podiums and 52 points in the 17 races prior to the Brazilian Grand Prix, it is clear the team has made significant progress; in the two previous seasons combined it finished on the podium once and scored a total of 48 points.
As well as showing strong performance, the TF108 has also enjoyed good reliability, with only three retirements due to mechanical problems in the 17 races prior to Brazil.
But Panasonic Toyota Racing exists to win and, despite achieving its pre-season objectives of returning to the podium and improving its points total, that unfulfilled desire continues to push the team to continuously improve.
"It's great this year to be back on the podium with two drivers and a car that can challenge for podium positions, so it's been a good year," says President John Howett. "But the future is the middle step of the podium, number one. There's no doubt in my mind that we will win races and become world champions in the future."
The podium finishes in France and Hungary naturally catch the eye but dig deeper and the statistics show the TF108 was highly competitive at almost every track. For a large part of the season it was the nearest challenger to McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari and arrives in Brazil with nine top-six and 14 points finishes so far.
Such a major step forward does not happen overnight. It is the result of many months of hard work by every member of the 650-strong team at the technical centre in Cologne, Germany since the first design decisions were taken on the TF108 in December 2006.
Using Toyota Way methodology, passion and dedication, the team developed the TF108 concept before refining it on the test track during the winter and embarking on an extensive development programme throughout the season, with upgrades introduced at almost every race.
John Howett says: "I think the biggest fundamental issues are that we have the right number of people in the areas that give performance.
"We have a much more detailed and comprehensive database, so we know more about every track and what the key performance parameters are. Fundamentally we've got extremely good people doing the important jobs everywhere in the factory.
"So we have the skills, we have the people and I think the reason our performance is stronger this year is because every single element is improving; not just some elements but every element. We're finding hundredths of a second every corner and every lap - and that is what is making the difference."
So, all the factors are in place and the Toyota Way gives the team a unique advantage to harness that creativity and energy into genuine progress. As well as encouraging greater efficiency and inspiring a continuous search for improvement, the Toyota Way also breeds an open working culture, where problems are solved quickly and development is persistent.
"It's not a management philosophy, it's a team philosophy, and that's the difference from a lot of other flavour-of-the-month management ideas," says Team Manager Richard Cregan. "The Toyota Way is a way of life, it's a way of doing things and it's been referred to as a genetic way of operating. For me it has been successful in many, many ways, in particular in bringing people together and working as a team. I think that's the one particular point where we have been very successful this year."
Another positive factor from the 2008 season has been the performance of drivers Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli. The pair have proved to be a perfect combination of youth and experience, pushing each other on track while cooperating closely off track to improve the TF108.
Chairman and Team Principal Tadashi Yamashina explains: "Although I don't want to place too much emphasis on age, the freshness of Timo's approach to driving has stimulated Jarno while Jarno teaches Timo things based on his experience. So the drivers have been working hard for us based on their respective strengths."
Richard Cregan adds: "We have two drivers that communicate very well and they work together in developing the car; they communicate with the engineers, they communicate with each other very well with the complete team and they do a lot of factory visits. For example, Timo is now living in Cologne so whenever he's in the city he's in and out of the factory like a normal employee and I think this is a huge motivation for everybody."
Motivation is high heading to the final race of the 2008 season, where Panasonic Toyota Racing expects to finish the season with a positive result, but Formula 1 never stops so great energy is already being invested in the team's future success.
John Howett concludes: "I think the atmosphere within the team is a barometer of success; it's always easy to motivate a team when it's been successful. A really encouraging thing for me is that every element of the entire organisation is working together. Now we have a totally unified organisation and the boundaries are being broken down with a clear vision on winning."
For a video feature on this subject, featuring exclusive interviews with Tadashi Yamashina, John Howett and Richard Cregan, please visit the Broadcast Room on www.toyota-f1-world.com.