Toyota President John Howett talks about 2006 and other topics
Q: How do you judge the season which has just finished?
John Howett: We can't deny the results have been lower than our expectations. The encouraging thing is that the real raw pace of the car is good, so at the end of the season I think it's clear we had the third quickest package on the grid. We suffered too much for reliability issues during the season and we were too slow at the beginning of the season. So, results-wise, I think we have no defence, we have to work hard but we also have to look at the reality of the speed of development and the finishing position in terms of real pace of the car, which are incouraging.
Q: Unfortunately the finishing position was affected by some reliability issues which didn't enable your drivers to get some good results. Are you worried about reliability?
JH: Certainly we did have reliability issues, I think as we found pace we also had a degree of fragility, but it's quite clear we are working very hard. The year before we were the most reliable car on the grid, so we can do it, it's just a question of balancing the performances and the reliability. This is hard work already in progress for next year.
Q: Did Mike Gascoyne's departure made 2006 a transition year in terms of technical development?
JH: We parted ways because there was a different view on the technical direction. Clearly we feel the pace of the car towards the end of the year indicated the direction is correct. One also have to say Mike brought us a lot of positive things, there was just a disagreement on the final direction on certain issues.
Q: Are you happy about your drivers' job during the season?
JH: Yes. As you said, when the car was performing well and when we had no reliability issues, the drivers were doing an extremely good job. If you look at the qualifying pace of the final race in Brazil, the actual speed for a limited number of laps of both Jarno and Ralf is encouraging. So we are very happy with the drivers.
Q: You are also doing a lot for young Japanese drivers. Do you think there is the possibility to see a Japanese race driver at Toyota in the next few years?
JH: In the Young Drivers Programme, the phase at the moment is that we have three extremely quick Japanese drivers. Nakajima will go to Williams as a test driver and we will probably use Kobayashi ourselves during 2007 for testing. But we also have a young British guy and a young Dutch guy in Formula Renault, so we are trying to find young drivers with an outstanding talent probably from 2010 onwards. We just have to see which driver comes. I think which nationality is open, but the two Japanese guys are extremely quick."
Q: Do you think the partnership with Williams will help you having more data for the engine development?
JH: It's a partnership and I think it's a different approach to the one of a 'B-team'. We are actually trying to have a form of 'coopetition'. So where we can find positive sinergy for both teams to improve performance, fine, but still we are competitors. They want to keep there unique position, which we respect, and we are working hard to find a lot of sinergies which are really non-compete items.
Q: There have recently been the appointment of Tadashi Yamashina as the Vice Chairman of Toyota Motorsport GmbH. Don't you think that too many Japanese people with no Formula One experience can bring confusion to the team management?
JH: I don't really think so. If you look at Toyota worldwide it's probably the winning car manifacturer and it's quite common for them to have Japanese executives within their manifacturing, design, sales and marketing operations. For me it's fairly routine Toyota practice and possibly it can also help us more with direct connection with resources in Japan both from an engineering and also from a budget point of view.
Q: It's fairly soon to talk about 2007 but you are one of the teams who can have a benefit for the fact of having already started your cooperation with Bridgestone last year. Which will your goals be next year?
JH: We are in Formula One to win, we are consistently challenging to win races. This is the clear goal. I think the Bridgestone tyre which will be in use next year will be quite different from the one used last year, so we still have a learning curve but we do acknowledge we do have a good working relationship with Bridgestone. We hope that it will work, but still Bridgestone's intention is to be fair and equitable to all teams. From the day after the last race we worked hard on 2007 preparations.