Toyota has called time on a technical collaboration with the Hispania Racing squad just days before the Murcia-based outfit looked set to confirm it.
The expected announcement would have been one confirming that HRT had arranged a technical and support tie-in with Toyota’s former F1 operation for the 2011 season, including the use of the never-raced 2010 car designed and constructed by Toyota in late 2009 before its headquarters pulled the pin on further F1 involvement.
But now Toyota has confirmed that the rumoured collaboration “has been terminated and will not resume”.
And it would seem that money – or rather, a lack of it – is once again the stumbling block with HRT, with the Toyota statement reading: “"TMG regrets that HRT has not met its contractual payment obligations and will pursue all available options to reach a satisfactory conclusion to this matter.”
“Hispania Racing is very surprised about Toyota’s press statement … and this matter will be a subject of further clarification,” its press release read.
The announcement puts HRT’s situation for 2011 – if not its very existence – in serious doubt, as it clearly does not have the technical resources to design and construct its own F1 car from scratch in time for next season, hence the original pursuit of a partnership with an operation that can provide design and construction facilities.
But this might actually be part of HRT’s plan. This sounds a little strange when read, but work with me here…
The announcement from Toyota confirms that a deal was in fact signed with HRT a few months ago when originally speculated. But would it be unreasonable to think that team owner José Ramón Carabante may have changed his mind when presented with the total cost of the arrangement, and has been trying to wriggle out of the deal ever since?
But Toyota’s statement that it “will pursue all available options to reach a satisfactory conclusion” lends me to think that they want money for their efforts in the interim: continuing the development of a 2011-spec version of the 2010 car, the TF110.
It’s a daft situation to have HRT part with money and get nothing in return, so a logical compromise might be for HRT to compensate Toyota a figure as part of settling the dispute and then get something as well.
Could Toyota give HRT the intellectual property rights of the TF110 chassis design for the outfit to then build its own car? Everyone might be happy with that outcome.
Following this line of thought, HRT would then need the use of a facility with a 60%-scale windtunnel (Toyota has used one for the design of the TF110) and it so happens that Williams has two at its disposal. Ergo, an expansion of HRT’s deal with Williams and its departed driver, Nico Hülkenberg, as part of the deal?
We might be wrong, but it’s a decent theory nonetheless…