The launch season continues, staying in Germany. The focus has switched from the McLaren launch in Stuttgart on Monday, 375km North for the unveiling of the Panasonic Toyota Racing TF108 in Cologne.
The new car was presented today, Thursday the 10th, at the Formula One team's technical centre.
Drivers Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi were all in attendance as well as the Panasonic Toyota Racing teams key players. The team also broadcast the event live on their website (www.toyota-f1.com), a nice touch, allowing all the fans of F1 to share in the excitement.
Those at the event or watching via the web were not disappointed, the car really is a stunning looking racing machine. It does have the Ferrari-style carbon fibre wheel covers on the front wheels, which spoiled the look somewhat, but even so the curves and sweeping lines more than make up for that. The predominately red and white paint job is tasteful and uncluttered, but it's all about speed in F1 so will the pretty car be a fast car?
Toyota seems to think so, they are not messing about trying to play down expectations, This is "the car it expects to challenge at the front next season" and they say so, in those exact words.
Usually we have to wait for the first race to see where the teams really are in the speed stakes but Toyota is talking a good game now, they describe the car as a marked improvement on its predecessor. This is refreshing to see in F1 and lets hope they are right. With three or even four teams fighting at the front, the season ahead could be an exciting one.
Chairman and Team Principal Tadashi Yamashina states "our ultimate target is the middle step of the podium - we are in Formula 1 to win and we want to do that soon."
Yamashina is unhappy with last year's performance but is more than optimistic about 2008, "We have great potential in this team - we have the right people in place and the right resources so we have every reason to be optimistic.
"We expect to have a truly competitive car so our drivers should be aiming to finish in the points regularly and challenging for the podium," he explained.
Yamashina is not alone in his assessment of the progress made by the well-funded team. President John Howett said, "We look in good shape for 2008, there is no question about that."
Ferrari and McLaren have both claimed their cars are an evolution of their predecessors, Toyota are saying that the TF108 is significantly different to its predecessor, on the outside and the inside, and what's more it looks like they are happy with the result.
The car has a longer wheelbase, a major aerodynamic upgrade, revised suspension and a new gearbox.
Senior General Manager Chassis Pascal Vasselon stated, "The main reason for making the wheelbase longer is to achieve more stability, but secondly we also expect greater aerodynamic development potential, giving our aerodynamicists wider surfaces and more space to play with."
As well as a longer wheelbase, the TF108 boasts a distinctive new aerodynamic concept and advanced suspension layouts.
"The aerodynamic concept of this car has changed," adds Vasselon. "The TF107 was an evolution of the TF106 but this time the new package is a departure from recent Toyotas. The primary aerodynamic design philosophy for the TF108 is geared towards optimizing the entire package."
Engine development is effectively frozen under the 2008 FIA regulations, which only allow modifications in the interests of reliability. Toyota did not see this as a problem for them: "In mechanical terms we felt we had a strong basis so we have focused on making a few refinements," Vasselon commented.
The standard ECU for all teams this year is big news in the sport. Ferrari, notably, appear unhappy about the use of the McLaren Systems / Microsoft ECU and suggest it is an advantage to McLaren. However, all the teams had a chance to tender for the contract to supply the ECU, the FIA chose the McLaren Systems solution, and that is the way it will be for 2008.
General Manager Engine for Toyota, Luca Marmorini, gave his thoughts on the subject. "On a Formula 1 engine, or indeed any modern car engine, even the mechanical parts are controlled by electronics so this is a big, big change."
Toyota has been working hard at getting the best out of their engine instead of talking about the problems and seem to be much happier with the new rules.
Driver-wise, the team has opted for a balance of youth and experience, a recipe that worked well for McLaren last year, at least in terms of results but certainly not well at all in many other ways.
Trulli in his fourth full season adds the meat to Toyotas recipe. Having been at the team for four years he knows F1, the team and to some extent the car well.
Glock adds the vegetables to the dish, he's young fast and comes off the back of winning the GP2 championship last year; a source of many rising stars in F1.
The plate is finished off with a garnish of Kobayashi, the young test driver combines his role with racing in the GP2 series this year.
The drivers share the excitement of the team bosses, the 33 year-old Trulli speaking at the launch said: "My hopes are always high because normally I am very Positive.
"I think that the team has got the potential, the resources, the people and everything necessary to bounce back to the position where we belong," he concluded.
The 25 year-old Glock is a proven champion in the GP2 Series and is no stranger to Formula 1 either, having spent a year as test driver and then race driver for Jordon in 2004 as well as a BMW Sauber test driver in 2007.
"I want to have the most successful season possible," said the German. "I aim to be consistent and to help the team move upwards. My first goal will be to regularly challenge for points and I believe we will be able to do that."
The youngest member of the driver line-up is 21 year-old Kobayashi, who continues his rapid rise up the motorsport ranks by stepping in as test driver. "It will be a challenge for me but I will always do my best.
"I will work hard on improving the car but also on improving myself because I do not have a lot of Formula 1 experience and I can get better in the way I communicate to my engineers and things like that," he resolved.
The launch action stays in Germany moving the 575km South East to Munich for the BMW F1 launch. That will be on Monday the 14th January and Motorsport.com will be there to bring you the latest news on the launch.