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Is Toyota In F1? Were They Ever In The Sport?

Toyota has been one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers for many years and the brand has also enjoyed success in a variety of motorsports, including rally and NASCAR. This success has led many to question their absence in F1, and many wonder if Toyota have ever been in F1.

Toyota are not currently in F1 and haven’t been since they left the sport in 2009. They originally entered the sport in 2002 as a factory team, supplying both their own engine and chassis. Poor results on track and large financial losses meant that they left the sport after just 8 seasons.

Toyota will unfortunately go down as a failure in Formula 1, after their huge resources and financial backing failed to ever secure them a Grand Prix victory. In this article we will discuss the company’s time in the sport, as well as answer whether they will ever make a return.

Does Toyota Have An F1 Team?

Toyota no longer have an F1 team after they withdrew from the sport at the end of the 2009 season. This marked the end of a short and relatively unsuccessful stint within the sport as they never managed a Grand Prix win in their 140 races as a team. 

Their withdrawal from the sport meant that they stopped supplying engines to other teams in 2009. There is currently no talk of a Toyota return to F1.

Has Toyota Ever Been In F1?

Toyota first entered F1 in 2002 and would stay in the sport for 7 years, until the global recession caused them to pull out in 2009. Despite being one of the world’s leading car manufacturers, their time within Formula 1 was underwhelming, earning only a handful of podiums.

A Taste For Racing

Although Toyota’s racing roots stem back to the late 1950s, the company first began focusing their time and money in motorsport in the 1990s, when they bought out the Andersson Motorsport team. They achieved a good level of success in the World Rally Championship, with driver Carlos Sainz (father of current Ferrari F1 driver Carlos Sainz Jr) winning four Drivers’ Championships.

Towards the end of the decade, Toyota began work on their 24 Hours of Le Mans project, but ultimately failed to make an impact on the event in the two consecutive years they entered. From 1999, Toyota suspended their other motorsport ventures and announced that they would be moving into Formula 1 for the 2001 season

Faltering Start

Toyota had originally planned to enter Formula 1 at the start of the 2001 season, with a car powered by a V12 engine. Changes to the regulations halted these plans, as the FIA announced the mandatory use of V10 engines in January 2000. This delayed Toyota’s entry by a year, costing them their $11 million deposit, as well as the money they had already spent on manufacturing. 

Toyota’s boldness in entering F1 as the sole manufacturer of their engines and chassis left many wondering how they were going to get on in their first season, without an experienced Formula 1 unit around them.

The First Years In F1

Toyota finally managed to field a car in 2002, but only managed two points in their first season. Mechanical faults and pit stop errors hampered Toyota’s success in their debut season. They parted ways with both of their drivers at the end of the year. Throughout their time in F1, Toyota had a habit of blaming their drivers for the team’s shortcomings, often with a lack of evidence to back it up.

The team managed 16 points in 2003, which was an improvement, but still left them in eighth place in the Constructors’ Championship.

Despite Toyota being one of the richest teams on the grid, they took a step backwards in the 2004 season, earning only eight points and once again finishing eighth in the Constructors’ Championship. They also caused controversy after being disqualified from the Canadian Grand prix for using illegal parts. This wasn’t Toyota’s only brush with the Formula 1 regulations.

Industrial Espionage Controversy

In November 2003, Toyota’s factory in Cologne, Germany was raided by police on suspicion of industrial espionage, where Toyota had allegedly stolen data files from Ferrari. Initial suspicions had been raised when teams and the media had noticed similarities between Toyota and Ferrari’s cars. It was suspected that they had obtained the data from an ex-Ferrari engineer.

Two former Ferrari engineers were convicted of stealing these secrets and sentenced to nine months and 16 months in prison respectively. The scandal brought much unwanted bad press onto the Toyota team, and their results reflected it.

Brief Success

Bolstered by the signing of Ralf Schumacher from Williams, Toyota experienced their most successful season in Formula 1 in 2005. They managed to score points in all but two of the season’s races, with Toyota’s fortunes seeming as though they were turning a corner. The success wasn’t long lasting, as a mediocre 2006 season led to the sacking of car designer Mike Gascoyne and a subsequent decline. 

Their Last Years In F1

Toyota struggled for points throughout the 2007 season, finishing with 13 overall, the team’s worst tally since 2004. Ralf Schumacher also announced that he was leaving the team at the end of the season. Toyota experienced a slight upturn in 2008, finishing fifth in the Constructors’ Championship with 56 points. Toyota would carry their steady form into the 2009 season.

Despite their newfound consistency, all was not well with the Toyota brand. The global recession was in full swing, and the company had recorded their first ever financial loss. The decision was made that Toyota would pull out of Formula 1 at the end of the 2009 season. The original plan was to hand the reins over to the Stefan Grand Prix team, but they were refused entry into the 2010 season. 

When Did Toyota Leave F1?

Toyota left F1 on the 4th of November 2009. The company had experienced their first financial loss and decided that competing in F1 was too much of a strain on their resources in difficult financial times. Their lack of success on the track was also a factor in their decision to leave.

This led to the team itself recording billions of dollars’ worth of losses. Their departure from the sport in 2009 drew the curtain on what was a thoroughly underwhelming stint in Formula 1, especially when you consider the resources that they entered the sport with. 

KEY POINTS

• Toyota raced in F1 as a works team from 2002 until 2009

• The stint was very unsuccessful given their immense resources

• They largely left the sport as a result of poor financial performance

Were Toyota Successful In Formula 1?

Toyota were not successful in Formula 1, although they did achieve some podium finishes during their 8 seasons in the sport. Despite having greater resources than many other teams, their lack of experience and underestimation of the challenge meant Toyota never managed a Grand Prix victory.

Their high point was a fourth-place finish in the Constructors’ Championship in 2005, but when it looked like the team were finally ready to kick on and mount a serious challenge, under preparation and bad team decisions held them back. They could never attract any of the real superstar drivers on the grid, with Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli proving to be their best partnership.

There will always be a ‘what if’ surrounding Toyota’s time in F1. Had they invested their finances into the right areas, hired the right people, and had full backing from those at the very top of the company, we could be looking back at Toyota being one of the modern Formula 1 success stories. 

Toyota In Formula 1

YearWinsPodiumsPole PositionsPointsWCC Position
2002000210th 
2003000168th 
200400098th 
2005052884th 
2006010356th 
2007000136th 
2008020565th 
200905159.55th 

Toyota As Engine Suppliers In F1

YearTeamsWinsPodiumsPole PositionsPointsWCC Position
2005Jordan Grand Prix010129th 
2006Midland F1, Spyker MF1000010th
2007Williams010334th 
2008Williams020268th 
2009Williams00034.57th 

During their time in Formula 1, Toyota also operated as an engine supplier. Unfortunately, there aren’t any real success stories among the other teams using Toyota’s engines, with no wins or pole positions for either of their customer teams, and just four podium finishes in five seasons. 

They started supplying other teams in 2005, with Jordan Grand Prix as their first customer. Toyota’s services would be retained through Jordan’s rebranding to Midland F1, and future rebranding to Spyker F1. They then began supplying for Williams, until they stopped their F1 engine production at the end of the 2009 season, when they withdrew their participation in the sport.  

Will Toyota Come Back To F1?

Toyota currently have no plans to come back to F1, despite being the world’s largest car manufacturer. While F1 has introduced budget caps to lower the overall costs of participation, it is still a very expensive business to be a part of, and the brand is likely scarred from its first attempt.

It is unlikely that Toyota will reappear as an engine supplier, especially after Audi’s entry announcement for 2026. With Porsche also looking for a way into the sport, there simply may not be any room for another supplier to find a way in. 

Akio Toyoda’s FIA Appointment

Toyota aren’t completely in the F1 wilderness, as Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda was appointed to the FIA Senate, the governing body behind the way the FIA runs. With Formula 1 being governed by the FIA, Akio Toyoda certainly has the right contacts should he wish to see the Toyota brand lining up on the F1 grid once again

KEY POINTS

• Toyota was fairly unsuccessful in Formula 1 as a works team

• They only managed a total of 13 podiums in 8 years

• The brand was also largely unremarkable as an engine supplier

What Other Motorsports Does Toyota Race In?

Toyota are currently very active in motorsport, competing in various events such as Super GT, WRC, WEC and NASCAR. Toyota made their first moves into motorsport in the 1970s, but first rose to prominence in the rally scene in the 1990s. They are currently the joint third most successful team in WRC with five titles. Their last championship win came in 2018.

Toyota also have a successful endurance racing team and have won the previous five 24 Hours of Le Mans races. Luck in Le Mans hasn’t always been on their side, with their 2016 entry leading the race for 23 hours and 55 minutes, before mechanical failures forced an agonizing end to the race for the Toyota team. 

Toyota have three cars racing in three different divisions of NASCAR, with their Camry model taking part in the NASCAR Cup Series, the Supra taking part in the Xfinity Series, and their Tundra model competing in the Camping World Truck Series. Multiple NASCAR championships have been won in Toyota cars, most recently in 2021. 

Open-Wheel Racing

Toyota’s failed Formula 1 stint didn’t end their time in the open-wheel racing scene, as they currently compete in the Super Formula series, their own Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand, and the Formula 3 series. 

Final Thoughts

Toyota raced in F1 from 2002-2009. They had the resources to mount a serious challenge on the top teams, but a mixture of bad decisions, underestimating the sport and not having enough F1 knowhow in the boardroom meant that the team never reached their potential.