Toyota's Formula 1 chiefs have been assured that the Japanese manufacturer is not planning a withdrawal from the sport later this year – but the team has been warned to prepare itself for major costs cuts.
The Cologne-based outfit has been told it must wait until a board meeting in Tokyo on November 15 to get it 2010 budget signed off – which has prompted fears that Toyota could follow Honda and BMW out of F1. However, high level sources inside the Toyota Motor Company have told AUTOSPORT that the message from Tokyo is that the car maker plans to remain committed to F1, but it does want to spend less in doing so.
It is understood that Toyota may be looking to cut its input into the F1 team by as much as 40 percent – which, added to sponsorship finance the team gets, could reduce its budget by up to one third compared to this year.
The lack of guarantee over next year's budget is why the team has been unable to make firm financial commitments to its drivers for next year. It is also believed that any staff needed to be cut from the F1 program may be shifted onto a sportscar Le Mans project which is being considered for 2011.
The source told AUTOSPORT: "The message from Tokyo is that we will be staying in F1 – and Toyota remains committed to the sport. However, there will likely be big budget cuts."
Toyota had come into the season admitting that only a race victory would be enough to guarantee its future in F1 – but the situation has changed now with the signing of a Concorde Agreement that commits the team for the next three years.
John Howett, Toyota's F1 president, said that now the main factor was not individual results but the overall state of health of F1.
"For me the bigger issue is the total value of F1, and issues like that," he said. "We have proven [in Spa] that we have got a very competitive car – certainly on medium to high speed tracks."
Although Toyota has fallen short of a victory this year, the team is pushing hard on bringing a major development step ahead of its home Japanese Grand Prix that could help it secure that elusive win.
"Suzuka looks good," said Howett when asked about which of the final five races would provide the team its best chance of a victory. "It is similar downforce requirements to Spa, so we could be strong there. We are trying to get a fairly big upgrade for Singapore or there, but we will see where we can get it."