TOKYO (Reuters) - 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, Toyota team principal Tadashi Yamashina told Reuters Monday.
“Our Formula One budget was cut again and again from its original figure,” 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 Formula One and spent an estimated $300 million on the Cologne-based team in 2008, a figure only exceeded by Honda.
Toyota finished fifth overall last year but returned to the podium for the first time since April 2006 with German Timo Glock second in Hungary and Italian Jarno Trulli third in Germany.
“Winning and results are important,” Yamashina said. “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 due to the slump in global car sales, their continued presence in Formula 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 new owner Ross Brawn.
”It has been very difficult,“ said 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 down-size 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 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 on March 29.
Editing by Ed Osmond