When Toyota came into Formula 1, it was considered to be a question of when, rather than if, the Japanese manufacturer would start winning.
But its nine seasons of grand prix racing yielded a mere 13 podium finishes - none of them on the top step – before the project was canned.
On June 30, Toyota confirms that it will be entering the Formula 1 World Championship in 2002, building its own chassis and engines. In August, the team reveals more details of its plans at the Belgian Grand Prix, with Toyota sports car ace Allan McNish confirmed as one test driver alongside then-Sauber driver Mika Salo, who is also confirmed as a race driver for 2002.
Original plans to build the car around a V12 engine are shot down when the FIA changes the rules to allow only 12-cylinder engines to be used, but on September 18 Toyota fires up its own V10 design for the first time as it gears up for its comprehensive test program.
On March 23, the Toyota test car - the TF101 - is shaken down by Salo at Paul Ricard. The program gets off to a bad start when, two days later, Salo suffers a 135mph crash. At the end of April, technical director Andre de Cortanze leaves the team, with Austrian Gustav Brunner joining Toyota as chief designer in May.
Intensive testing continues with the TF101, including visits to the Nurburgring, Magny-Cours, Spa, Barcelona, Silverstone, the A1-Ring, the Hungaroring, Suzuka and Sepang before the team eventually agrees to observe the F1 winter test ban and stops running in mid-November. In all, the TF101 completes over 20,000 miles and runs at 11 tracks on the F1 calendar. The team confirms McNish as its second race driver for 2002 and on 17 December it unveils the TF102 – its first F1 race car.
On January 8, McNish gives the TF102 its first track test as Toyota gets ever closer to its debut F1 season. In pre-season testing, the car is off the pace although many rival teams are impressed with the power output of Toyota's V10 engine. Team boss Ove Andersson says on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix weekend that he will be happy just to qualify, and Salo and McNish line up 14th and 16th for the team's debut race.
Only eight cars finish, with Salo taking a debut point for Toyota in sixth. Salo adds a second point in the Brazilian Grand Prix, but despite top 10 qualifying performances at Monaco, Silverstone and Spa, Toyota ends the season with just two points and 10th, ahead of only Arrows in the constructors' championship with unreliability a major problem. Salo, who subsequently hit out at the politics within the team, and McNish carry the can and are dropped in favour of Champ Car champion Cristiano da Matta and BAR's Olivier Panis.
Both reliability and pace improves with the TF103, with da Matta and Panis scorng 16 points and finishing eighth in the constructors' championship. The Frenchman takes Toyota's best F1 finish in two seasons with fifth in the German Grand Prix, and the team enjoys a brief glory run at Silverstone where Toyota runs first and second after staying out under the safety car. Panis also shows the the team is making progress by qualifying third for the United States Grand Prix.
Toyota heads into the season retaining da Matta and Panis, while Mike Gascoyne starts the year as technical director after being tempted away from Renault by a big-money offer in mid-2003. Gascoyne improves the team's previously poor in-season development rate, but results are hard to come by. Da Matta is dropped after the German Grand Prix in favour of test driver Riccardo Zonta.
The team again finishes eighth in the constructors' championship with nine points amd soon focuses on its 2005 challenger. Gascoyne favorite Jarno Trulli is signed for 2005, joining the team for the final two races of the year after falling out with Renault boss Flavio Briatore, with Ralf Schumacher moving across from Williams in place of the retiring Panis. The team's 2004 season is overshadowed when it is investigated for being in possession of Ferrari technical data.
The TF105 is the first Toyota designed under the auspices of Gascoyne, and is a strong contender from the start of the season. Trulli claims back-to-back second places in Malaysia and Brazil, but the pace of development is not good enough and as the year goes on despite taking pole position for the ill-fated United States Grand Prix, results became harder to find.
After five races, Trulli is Fernando Alonso's closest challenger in the world championship, but picks up just 17 points in the remaining races as Toyota takes fourth in the constructors' championship. Brunner also leaves the team during 2005.
After a great step forward the year before, 2006 is not a good year for Toyota. Trulli and Schumacher score just 30 points on their way to sixth in the constructors' championship as the team struggles after switching to Bridgestone tires. This does not compare favourably to the 88-point haul of the year before, and Gascoyne leaves early in the season amid disagreements about how the team should approach development.
The nadir of Toyota's F1 involvement. After a strong year in 2005 and a solid one in 2006, the team only manages 13 points. With Pascal Vasselon effectively taking over Gascoyne's role, the team turns its full attention to understanding why it has lost so much performance and focuses its attention on getting the TF108 right. Schumacher leaves the team at the end of the year, with GP2 champion Timo Glock later signing as his replacement.
After the lows of 2007, the TF108 gives Toyota new hope as Trulli and Glock rack up 56 points and take fifth in the constructors' championship. The high points are podiums for Trulli at Magny-Cours and Glock at the Hungaroring, with in-season development progress vastly improving to the point where the Italian is able to qualify on the front row for the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.
The stakes are high heading into the season, with senior management talking openly about the need to have a very good year to keep Toyota interested. Wins are talked about, but despite the TF109 being one of the early-season pacesetters, thanks in part to being one of three teams to run what has become known as the double diffuser, podiums are as good as it gets.
Third in the constructors' championship is the aim, but as the season goes on Toyota finds itself slipping into the battle for minor points places. After taking three podiums in the first four races, Glock and Trulli make just one more appearance apiece in the top three and the team has to be satisfied with fifth in the constructors' championship.
Despite very vocal attempts to sign big-name drivers like Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen, the writing is on the wall and Toyota's eight season F1 odyssey ends when the company announces its immediate withdrawal in a press conference in Japan at the start of November.