Former Toyota F1 driver Mika Salo believes the lack of stability inside the team was a big factor in the squad's lack of success, following its recent pullout from Formula 1.
The Finn drove for the team during its debut season and scored points on their first outing together in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix (left), where he finished in sixth place. But despite a great debut for Toyota, the team didn't manage to win a single grand prix during its eight seasons in the sport.
Salo told AUTOSPORT he was surprised that the team failed to achieve any of its goals, and believes permanent changes to the team's personnel didn't allow them to yield from their massive resources.
"I scored points in my first race and, at that time, it was already for the top-six only. Now eight score points, but it was good," said Salo. "There were too many things happening there, the key personnel would change all the time and they didn't have this continuity that they need for success. They had good designers, drivers, but then they changed and got new ones, so all the development starts from zero again. There were a few bad decisions made but I think they should have won a race.
"I think some of the big mistakes were at the beginning when there were a few wrong people, who were not experienced enough in Formula 1. They took on board people who were not involved in Formula 1. So they got on the wrong track then and it took a long time to fix it. Now finally they started getting some good results this year and the car was pretty good, but it needed a couple more years. It was a big investment for the company, but now with the economic crisis [their decision] is understandable."
Salo reckons that losing former team principal Ove Andersson was a major blow for the team and something that didn't help the squad's progress.
"I think, yes," he said. "When we lost Ove it was a big minus for everybody because he was really a key person there. He was holding it all together and he knew what to do to make [the team] successful. But we lost him in the middle of everything and it wasn't good."
The 42-year-old was not surprised when he learned about Toyota's exit from Formula 1. He says ever since he left the team back in 2003, there were already fears that the manufacturer would pull the plug any time. "Well, I thought it was coming," said Salo. "There was talk already a few years back. It wasn't really a safe working environment for the mechanics and everybody. After I left in 2003, every year I saw the guys and everybody talking about it all the time, and they were really scared to go work every morning, because there's something happening all the time.
"They didn't know if next morning they go to work and there's not a job anymore. So, everybody was really insecure there and they just made a decision. It's a shame this happened because it's kind of a trend now that everybody is pulling out, all the manufacturers, and the private teams are coming back now. It's a shame because Toyota didn't achieve what it wanted to do in Formula 1."
Salo scored two points over 17 grands prix for Toyota during the 2002 season – his last in Formula 1 – with sixth-place finishes at Melbourne and Interlagos being his best results. Now he is looking forward to a test with Michael Waltrip Racing's NASCAR Sprint Cup team, which he hopes will lead to a new phase of his career.