TOKYO // Toyota came close to following Honda out of Formula One after their Japanese rivals pulled out of the glamour sport to cut costs in December, the Toyota team principal Tadashi Yamashina has revealed. "Our Formula One budget was cut again and again from its original figure," Mr Yamashina said. "It was cut again after Honda's announcement they were leaving F1 and within a month the figure was reduced again after Toyota's end of yearly earnings target was revised.
"I'm not able to put a figure on how much the Formula One budget was slashed by but in all my time at Toyota I have never seen cuts like it." Toyota have yet to win a race after seven years in the sport and spent an estimated US$300 million (Dh1.1bn) on the Cologne-based team in 2008, a figure only exceeded by Honda. The team finished fifth overall last year and returned to the podium for the first time since April 2006 with the German Timo Glock finishing second in Hungary and the Italian Jarno Trulli finishing third in Germany.
"Winning and results are important," Mr Yamashina added. "There are other factors too. It's a business and unless we make the team viable, next year we may have to cut costs further." With the world's biggest carmaker set to suffer its first ever operating annual loss because of the slump in global car sales, their continued presence in the sport has come under scrutiny. Honda, Japan's second largest carmaker, blamed the worldwide economic downturn for their Formula One exit.
Toyota's decision not to follow suit was believed to have been a very close one, a renewed sponsorship deal with Japanese electronics company Panasonic providing a timely boost. Honda's team were saved earlier this month and will race this season as Brawn GP under the new owner Ross Brawn. "It has been very difficult," said Mr Yamashina. "Laying off people and cutting costs is part of business. As a business you have to do what you can to survive.
"No matter how much we have to reduce the budget by or how far we have to downsize the team, that is what business people have to think about." Dozens of contract employees have lost or will lose their jobs under Toyota's restructuring while other measures devised by the teams' association FOTA had been adopted to save money. "We're cutting down on tests and we will keeping spending under tight control," said Mr Yamashina. "Having said that results are important.
"There's little point doing it if we are crawling home in 17th or 18th place in every race." The Formula One season starts in Melbourne, Australia on March 29. *Reuters