Saving costs has become critical in many racing series for the 2009 season and many of the manufacturers and teams are feeling the pinch with the worldwide economy dipping to record lows. The Panasonic Toyota Racing Formula One team elected to allow fans and the media see their new challenger via an online launch to save costs.
It's a departure from the usual glitzy media launch for their new Formula One contender. The TF109 is an important one for the Japanese team which has struggled to gain success in the F1 arena.
"Panasonic Toyota Racing is committed to reducing the cost of Formula 1 while retaining its essential DNA but we are also constantly evolving in other ways, and one of our priorities is to share our passion for motorsport with the public," said Toyota F1 team president John Howett.
Team Principal Tadashi Yamashina was already given the ultimatum back in 2008, with two years to turn the team around. This is still a long way away and despite the relative step forward, it was clear from the outset that the 2008 car was not going to be a front-runner.
Last year the team did manage two podium finishes including a 2nd place in Hungary and this year the target is set at a challenging yet achievable level as Yamashina stated, "Our target this year is to fight to win the first race for Toyota in Formula 1."
However, even with the huge resources of Toyota behind the team, the 2008 result was still not a quite a match for the best showing for the team in 2005. That year included a couple of 2nd place finishes, with the team eventually finishing fourth in the world constructors' championship with 88 points.
Howett is positive about the opportunities in the forth coming year: "After eight years in Formula 1 we have gained a huge amount of knowledge and improved considerably.
"There are many elements of our team which are at the very highest level so the challenge now is to fill any gaps and ensure the entire organization is performing at the very top. Then we must put all the elements together and deliver the success we are all fighting so hard for," added Howett.
Although the overall look of the car was always going to be characterized by the 2009 regulations, there are some differences in the i.316668
Starting at the front the car has the big straight front wing as set in the 2009 regulations but Toyota have attached sculptured end plates which appear to be designed to guide the airflow around the front wheel.
The relatively small and pointed cone shaped nose is very high on the Toyota which will give the team more area to play with around and especially under the nose cone. Indeed the team has added large fins under the nose even on this early version of the car.
While Ferrari pushed the side pods back as far as possible to give more free area to play with under the regulations, Toyota have taken a more conventional approach in the positioning but the highly undercut shape is similar to that that had started to appear on competitors cars in 2008 and is present on the 2009 Ferrari.
The side pods taper back in a pear shape on the TF109 unlike the more conical shaped Ferrari while the floor pan extrudes in a relatively straight manner to rear wheels in a similar fashion to the Italian car. The exhaust recess has an inset exhaust unlike the extruding pipe seen on the Ferrari, this area again appears to be used to vent cooling airflow from the side pod inlets.
Toyota keeps the same driver line up for 2009 with Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock and they are happy with their choice, Yamashina commented: "In my opinion Toyota has one of the best driver line-ups in Formula 1 and I am excited to see what they can do with the TF109.
He continued, "Both drivers proved last season that if we give them a competitive car they are capable of fighting with the best in the world, so our challenge this year is to deliver a car which will allow them to do this more often."
Trulli has experience of working with Toyota and is in now in his fifth full year with the team while Glock, still with his 2007 GP2 Series win, fresh in his memory took to the TF108 well.
"I have now spent longer racing for Toyota in Formula 1 than any other driver and I have seen the huge progress that has been made since I joined in 2004," said Trulli. "It has been a long journey and we have had ups and downs but we have never given up or lost faith."
His teammate, Glock, said, "If you look back at the cars I have been racing for the last five years they have all been quite different, with the 2004 Jordan, then Champ Car, GP2 and the Toyota TF108, and I have been competitive in each of them. That shows how quickly I can adapt to a different car so I don't have any concerns at all about adjusting to the 2009-style Formula 1 cars."
Toyota has lost Luca Marmorini, the technical director for engine development. Marmorini has been with the team from the start of the F1 adventure and has been responsible for producing very reliable engines. However with Formula 1 being in its third year of the engine development freeze this may be less of a concern for the team.
Japanese Kazuo Takeuchi will now head the engine program.