Because it’ll be held at the Honda-owned race track, there is no way Toyota will not attempt to put forth its best effort in front of the home fans.
Two days before the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix gets under way at Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture, the Panasonic Toyota Racing team held a news conference, promising a gutsy performance at the homecoming stage, in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district on Tuesday.
The team’s senior managing director and principal Tadashi Yamashina summarized the 2009 season to date, acknowledging its ups and downs.
“We felt like we had good cars and entered the Australian Grand Prix (the opening race) with certain confidence, and we were indeed able to display our potential,” Yamashina said.
“But as we entered the round in Europe (in May), we started struggling.”
But Toyota successfully made a resurgence last weekend in Singapore. Its German driver, Timo Glock, finished second, making the first podium for the team since the Bahrain Grand Prix, in which Jarno Trulli was third, in late April. (It was Glock’s second podium finish of the year as well.).
Yamashina said that the Toyota team, which is fifth in the constructors standings with 46.5 points, made upgrades on its cars for the Singapore race, looking ahead to the Japanese Grand Prix one week later, and that decision paid off.
“We were fortunately able to wrap up the Singapore race in second place and confirm our basic car potential,” he said.
“We, with Jarno and Timo, have been aiming at the center of the podium with a never-give-up mind-set. We’ll put our best effort (for the Japanese Grand Prix) being united as a team.”
Glock said that he is positively looking forward to the Grand Prix and is confident about the race because of the late developments on the machines.
“In Suzuka, we can see more upgrades, more clear improvements,” said Glock, who is ninth in the driver’s rankings with 24 points.
Meanwhile, there is an issue that the team can’t overlook. Trulli has suffered an illness since the Singapore Grand Prix.
According to Yamashina, the Italian pilot has a fever. Trulli was supposed to arrive in Japan with the team members on Monday night, but because of the symptom he remained in Singapore to wait until the fever is abated.
Yamashina also admitted he’s spoken critical words to Kazuki Nakajima, who drives behind the wheel of the Toyota-powered Williams car, giving him harsh remarks about his performances this season.
“The degrees of his performance have been way worse than we expected,” Yamashina calmly said of his 24-year-old compatriot, who is the son of Satoru Nakajima, a former F1 driver.
Nakajima has earned no Grand Prix points this year. He earned nine last season.
“We know that he has great potential and can have better performances, which European teams are admitting (he can have),” Yamashina said. “So we feel a shame about him this year.”