Jarno Trulli is expecting the Toyota team to make a significant breakthrough this year following positive performances in pre-season testing.
The Japanese squad has one of the biggest budgets in Formula One but has yet to breakthrough to the sharp end of the grid after six years in F1. In 2007 Toyota scored just 13 points and finished sixth in the championship.
However, the new TF108 is a vast improvement on last year’s car according to Trulli. "The TF108 is a completely different car,â€ he told Autosport.com.
“I said at the first test that it was clearly a different animal [from last year’s car]. Last year straightaway I knew we had a huge problem, but this year I am much more confident.
"I am still cautious, but I must say the team understands this car more and we have gone in a direction that we understand much better.
"It’s a shame that there are some things that showed good performance internally but then didn’t translate well to the track but still it has been a good step forward. The aero package is working well but we expected it to be slightly better."
The new car has shown strong potential in testing. On the final day of testing at Barcelona Trulli topped the time-sheets leading some to think Toyota had been sand-bagging. However, the lap was set at optimal track conditions and it is widely believed Trulli was simulating qualifying runs.
Trulli remains optimistic about the team’s chances in 2008. While he does not expect the team to be able to mount a challenge on Mclaren and Ferrari, he is hopeful that the car will be competitive against the mid-field teams.
“I think we are very close to being at the top if you forget about Ferrari and McLaren, because they are really very strong. But we are very close to the rest.
"I am moderately optimistic. I am sure we can raise some eyebrows this year and cause problems for some teams. We can be competitive. Forget Ferrari and McLaren for the moment, they are a couple of steps ahead, but the rest are within reach."