The fact that these 2 teams are neighbors in the constructors table with only 5 points separating them is not exactly a sign of money well spent in Toyota… Toyota scored points in only 7 out of 17 races in 2007 and their greatest point tally from a race was 3. They had 5 races pointless streak from Turkey to China.
Their start to the season was not that bad. Both their cars qualified in top 10 and scored their first point right away with Ralf at 8th, just ahead of Trulli. Jarno Trulli went 1 place better in the next 2 races. After three races Toyota were 5th in the constructors table with 5 points, but the performance slump of Ralf Schumacher was well under way already. It became even more apparent in Spain where Trulli qualified at 6th while Ralf Schumacher at 17. Both cars retired from the race.
Monaco did not work for Toyota at all, low qualifying positions did not give much chance for good result on the tight track. Fifteen and sixteen and 2 laps down was rather embarrassing result. Moreover thanks to 2 points by Alex Wurz Williams with Toyota engines climbed ahead of Toyota in the constructors table after this race to stay ahead for the rest of the season.
In Canada Trulli again outperformed Ralf big way in the qualifying. Trulli however did not finish the race. Ralf had one the few bright race afternoons and made the best out of the chaotic race to finish 8th (after starting 18th).
Ralf did a bit better at Indy qualifying 12th, but Trulli made it again to Q3 and claimed 8th place on the grid. Ralf retired on the lap one after a collision. Trulli climbed 2 more places and his 6th place was to be his best result of the season.
French GP was Trulli’s turn to crash out, he did just that on lap 2. Ralf made it to the chequered flag, but at 10th place only. British GP was one the rare occasions when R. Schumacher got better of Trulli in qualifying. Ralf 6th, Trulli 10th, both cars in Q3, good Saturday for them. And that was about all that went good for them at Silverstone. Both cars retired from the race after mechanical failures.
European GP started well for them, at least the qualifying. Eight and 9th places, again both cars in Q3. It also looked like Ralf Schumacher has finally awaken with 2 consecutive respectable qualifying performances. The race however did not go their way. Schumacher had to retire after a collision and Jarno Trulli finished 12th – last car to finish the race. After this race Toyota dropped further down in the constructors table, behind Red Bull. They would claim 1 place back later on but only thanks to McLaren’s exclusion …
Schumacher’s renaissance continued in Hungary. He converted his fifth place on the grid qualifying (ahead of Trulli in 8th) to 6th place finish in the race. This was to be his best result of the season, equaling Trulli’s result from US GP. There were to be no more points for the until the last race of the season …
In Turkey Ralf was back to his usual self, qualifying 16th (Trulli 9th). He did better in the race, climbing up to 12th. Trulli race went the other way and he finished 16th. Schumacher qualified even worse in Italy, 18th place… Trulli again made it to Q3 but his race pace was not good enough for points and he lost few places finishing 12th. Ralf climbed up, but after starting so far back he could not really hope for better than 15th. Belgium saw some improvement from Ralf – Q3 and 10th place and that was where he also finished the race. Trulli again qualified well but dropped back 4 places in the race, 12th place. Japanese qualifying sent both Toyotas to the lower part of the midfield. That is where Trulli also finished the wet wet wet race, Ralf retired after tyre puncture. China was the 3rd and last race where Schumacher performed better than Trulli in qualifying. Perhaps the knowledge that he has only 2 more races in Toyota (and perhaps in his F1 career) gave him some wings, P6 Ralf, P12 Trulli. Nothing went right in the race for them though, Ralf spun off on lap 25, Trulli came hope a lap down at 13th. The only good news for them was, this was the last race of 2007 without points for the team.
Trulli qualified well again for final race of the season in Brazil, starting from P8, Ralf from P15. Ralf made up four places in the race. Trulli this time managed to hold on to his qualifying position and returned Toyota back to points for 8th place.
Another season, another few hundred million dollars spent and still nothing to show for that. When back in 2005 Toyota kicked the season off with few podium finishes I thought that they might have finally gotten it right … Since the team entered they achieved nothing. This year they were well beaten by Williams, team that uses the same Toyota power but spends several times less the money. This is the team with highest budget in F1 and yet two 6th places are their best results of the 2007 season. Not even once in the whole year did they get both drivers in the points. Podium remained a distant dream and Toyota race wins are science fiction.
There will be at least one new name on Toyota’s roster next year following Ralf Schumacher’s departure. Timo Glock has been already signed but whether he will join Toyota depends on resolution of the contract dispute with BMW. Jarno Trulli is still under contract, but not exactly safe. His qualifying form has been excellent for almost the entire season. But until he or his team will learn how to convert it into race results, Toyota will keep languishing in the middle of midfield…
Toro Rosso team started the season with controversial “not really a customer car” carbon copy of Red Bull, just fitted with Fearrari engine instead of Renault, painted with golden nose instead of yellow and a can of red paint splashed over the rest of the livery. Spyker protested (also against Super Aguri’s car) but Toro Rosso’s season got under way nevertheless.
Even with what looked like a decent car the team did not start the season well. They were pretty much the second slowest package just ahead of Spyker and perhaps on par with the horrible Honda car. The drivers did manage to impress from time to with an odd quick lap in practice or qualifying but were often let down by technical failures or got mixed up in the accidents. After first 4 races of the season of the season they recorded 5 DNFs, their best result was 14th place for Scott Speed in Malaysia and their highest starting grid position was Liuzzi’s 16th also in Malaysia and then in Spain.
Monaco was a bright exemption from the rule. Liuzzi made it to Q2 and qualified 12th. He however spun off early in the race. Scott Speed locked the usual lowly place on the grid, 18th, but had a great race and brought the car home in 9th place, just outside the points, behind 8th Kimi Raikkonen. This was the best result of the season to date.
In Canada it was the first time both Toro Rossos had made it through to Q2. Liuzzi P12 again, P16 for Scott Speed… The race was a different story, both cars retired after accidents. In the US GP Toro Rosso cars had returned to their rightful positions at the back of the starting grid but for the first time since Malaysia both cars finished the race.
Then came a disastrous run of races for the team. Decent qualifying sessions in France (P15 Speed, P17 Liuzzi) and Britain (P15 Speed, P16 Liuzzi) produced 3 DNFs, European GP saw both cars to spin off the wet track. Three DNFs in a row for Scott Speed, 2 out of 3 for Liuzzi. The on track problems were mirrored off track as well. The famous European GP pit lane bust up between Speed and Franz Tost has been well documented. Scott Speed made himself heard that Gerhard Berger and Franz Tost are trying to get rid of both the drivers. He was probably right. The team took up the option they had on Sebastien Bourdais before July was over (although they announced Bourdais 2 weeks later). And after Speed was sacked just before Hungarian GP and replaced with Vettel, it was clear 2008 will see brand new line up in the former Minardi team.
The poor results could not have been blamed only on drivers, but funny enough after the departure of Scott Speed and announcement that Liuzzi will not drive for them next year, the fortunes of Toro Rosso slowly began to turn for better. In the next 4 races Toro Rosso cars featured regularly in Q2 and recorded only 2 DNFs (quite an achievement). Liuzzi’s 12th place in Spa was his best result so far in the season.
Toro Rosso performed very well in the wet conditions of Fuji and Shanghai. The famous cock up behind the safety car in Japan robbed Vettel of possible shocking podium. Liuzzi’s 8th place was taken away from him after time penalty for passing under yellow flags relegated him to 9th. This was if not the best then for sure the most exciting race for this team.
What they missed out in Japan, they got in Shanghai. Both cars handled very well on the damp track and the perfect strategy brought the best ever result for Toro Rosso – 4th place for Vettel, 6th for Liuzzi. Eight points to constructors table, jumping ahead of Spyker, Super Aguri and Honda.
In Brazil their good form continued. Both cars qualifying high up at P13 and P14. Vettel did not finish the race but Liuzzi’s 13th was a solid result in his last race for the team.
Seventh place in constructors table is a result that few expected of Toro Rosso. The fact that McLaren was excluded and Honda absolutely uncompetitive most of the season definitely helped them. But although all their points came from one race the improvements the team made during the later part of the season are quite impressive. They started the season as backmarkers and ended it as a decent midfield team that on a good day can aim quite high. If they sort out their reliability issues (similar to those of their big brothers in Red Bull) they may hope for some more points to come next year.