Toyota give ‘clear’ response to questions over future F1 return

Jamie Woodhouse
Timo Glock drives the Toyota. Spain, March 2009.

Timo Glock driving the 2009 Toyota Formula 1 challenger. Spain, March 2009.

Ex-F1 racer and current Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe vice chairman Kazuki Nakajima said it is a “clear no” currently to the manufacturer returning to Formula 1, but that could change.

Toyota joined the world of Formula 1 back in 2002, and while they made 13 visits to the podium throughout their tenure, the team was never able to claim a grand prix victory.

Come the end of the 2009 campaign, Toyota would bow out of Formula 1 as a constructor and engine manufacturer and have not appeared in the series since.

Toyota cold stance on Formula 1 return could change

During the Japanese Grand Prix race weekend, home soil for Toyota, McLaren announced the signing of Toyota endurance racer Ryō Hirakawa as their reserve driver for F1 2024, paving the way for rumours to bubble up again over potential Toyota interest in a return to F1, considering this signing came as a rather left-field one.

And while former Williams driver Nakajima said this is definitely not on the cards for now, he did not completely close the door.

“At the moment, it’s a clear no,” he said, as per “This is just about giving a driver the opportunity to get his foot in the F1 door.

“But of course you can think about anything, and there are plenty of rumours. Who knows what the future holds.”

McLaren are concluding their long-term use of the Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne as they transition to their newly-built in-house facility, though Toyota left the door open to further collaboration with McLaren, with this deal for Hirakawa soon following.

Nakajima said it was McLaren who reached out looking to make it happen, with Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda’s stance being that Formula 1 opportunities should not be shut down for one their drivers.

“McLaren has been working with Toyota for some time, as part of work in the wind tunnel in Cologne,” said Nakajima. “So the team is no stranger to us.

“The trigger for all this was an enquiry from the English [team]. And group boss Toyoda believes that you should never deny a driver a Formula 1 opportunity.” recommends

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Nakajima believes “the timing is right” for Hirakawa to take his maiden steps into the world of Formula 1, now at the age of 29.

But for anyone who may feel that is a little old for a driver to get their first taste of Formula 1, he points to 42-year-old former Toyota Gazoo driver Fernando Alonso as proof that age can be just a “secondary” factor.

Alonso has excelled in F1 2023, his first season with Aston Martin, scoring seven podium finishes so far.

“Sometimes age plays a secondary role, just look at Fernando Alonso,” Nakajima stated. “It’s more about timing than age.

“Ryo has gained a lot of experience in different classes, the timing is right for him to enter Formula 1.”

McLaren’s Formula 1 driver line-up is secure for the coming years, with Lando Norris under contract until the end of 2025, while Oscar Piastri recently extended his deal through to the end of 2026.

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