Williams and Toyota
Williams have announced that they will have Toyota engines from next year. While this seems the best option available to them, it does make me wonder whether there is more to this than meets the eye. Teams rarely do well with engines from manufacturers that already run teams in F1. Such an arrangement works well for teams that are just starting out and pose no threat to the works outfit; but Williams have an outstanding record and are well capable of beating the Toyotas. How embarrassing will it be for the works team if Williams regularly finish ahead of them?
It may be that Toyota’s managers feel that any races won by their engines will be good publicity, regardless of which particular team achieves them. But, in that case, why risk one’s reputation as a chassis builder at all? It would make more sense to supply the engines to a reputable team in the same way that Mercedes does. That way you can always blame the chassis for poor race performances.
Is it possible that Toyota are tired of pouring money into their team without seeing race wins as a result? The deal with Williams could be a useful pointer for them, pitting their car designers against some of the best in the business and showing just how much more they have to learn. And, if it turns out that Williams builds a better car, they have an easy way to exit F1 without losing too much face – citing costs as the reason but continuing to supply engines. Or they could arrange a judicious merger Ã la BMW Sauber.
Of course, this is all conjecture. But it does make a lot of sense, especially when you remember that Toyota’s recent competitiveness has been largely due to Bridgestone getting the jump on Michelin in the tire race. It’s not as if Toyota don’t know that. In fact, they would be best placed to understand exactly how much difference the tires have made. And they’re still not beating Renault…
It is my guess that the Toyota management have given their team one more year to come good. If they don’t, well, we could be looking at a Toyota-Williams in 2008.
And that might not be a bad thing. The problem with manufacturer teams in F1 is that they skew the whole business. They have to win within a certain time-frame for PR purposes and so they throw money around like water in the first few years. Then, when their bean counters have all had heart attacks, they realize that it’s costing too much and they get out. But not before they’ve upped the ante for everyone, forcing costs to spiral and the FIA to get their knickers in a knot.
The Cosworth and Mercedes strategy is far better for manufacturers. Supply the engines and blame the teams when you don’t win. And it will be even more to the point once Michelin have departed. You can hardly blame the tires when everyone’s on the same rubber!