All of the car manufacturers currently in Formula 1 have expressed their displeasure at the FIA s proposal to implement a standard engine to the self proclaimed top flight of motorsport. So far only Toyota and Ferrari have questioned their future involvement in the sport, and with Toyota known to be looking at a return to Le Mans and the associated race series in both Europe and the US is this the excuse they need to pull the plug on their expensive and fruitless F1 folly?
Let s look at the implications, Formula 1 would be a much poorer place if Ferrari did leave the sport (for the already-trademarked-by-Bernie GP1?) and some might say that F1 would collapse without the Prancing Horse, but the departure of Toyota aside from leaving two car shaped holes on the grid wouldn t cause quite so much disruption. So you can understand why Ferrari would threaten to leave, the hope that loosing such a team might scare the FIA in to backing down, but Toyota?
You may think that as F1 is the supposedly technological pinnacle of motorsport that any top road car manufacturer would be mad to leave, but let s face it F1 is stuck in a techno-rut. Yes there s the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) coming in for the 2009 season, but they are still running 2.4 litre V8 petrol engines, in Le Mans series and Touring Car races there is the option of Diesel and Bio-Fuel power plants. With Toyota already having production Hybrids on sale worldwide they already know about the principle of KERS, although ironically they are apparently one of the teams struggling with the implementation of the device in their F1 car, so yes they can learn more, but is it worth their while especially if the KERS are to be standardised as other proposals suggest? So you can understand why a pioneering manufacturer like Toyota would want to leave F1 if they feel that the new (proposed) regulations could stifle their natural need to innovate. At least you could if they weren t racing in NASCAR in the USA.
The NASCAR series are regulated in such a way that even the car bodies are standardised with only stickers to denote the different manufacturers, and the V8 engines are running on Carburettors, hardly pioneering technology although it does lead to close and (arguably) entertaining races. You see to Toyota – and to be fair most of the manufacturers motorsport is a marketing exercise, and to be successful is to sell more cars. At least when Ford pulled Jaguar out of F1 they were honest about it, their sales weren t good enough to warrant them being a midfield F1 team so they sold up to concentrate on Rallying where they were at least successful. Toyota didn t come into Formula 1 lightly, they came in to win and if the standardised engines are implemented it is the perfect way of leaving the sport without admitting that they had failed.