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Edd Straw Straw Poll: Toyota's launch
Edd Straw reflects on Toyota's online launch - covered from the comfort of his desk in the Autosport office, and considers whether 2009 will be the year they finally crack it

  By Edd Straw

Formula One launches have happened in some weird and wonderful places over the years, but the unveiling of the Toyota TF109 was particularly unusual.

It happened everywhere and nowhere, in the intangible world of the Internet, and meant that you could attend the big reveal without so much as having to board a plane, train or automobile. In fact, all it took was a trip to the Autosport office, a quick lift ride and voila, it was all at our fingertips.

The Toyota TF109

In a way, it's a convenient way of launching, but it has to be said a little lacking in atmosphere. And it means you have to rely on photographs and phone calls to get an impression of what's going on. From what we saw, the TF109 isn't strikingly different from the Ferrari F60, although the high nose and "tusk" arrangement at least gives the second 2009 F1 car we've seen a distinctive look.

Then again, you can't always believe your eyes – do we really believe that Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock have grown by 20 percent over the winter? Or that test driver Kamui Kobayashi has shrunk, presumably through his exertions in GP2 Asia? Or that the three drivers have ever been in the same room as the completed car?

Questionable photoshoping aside, the launch was an interesting exercise. It's doubtful that the team will have earned significantly less coverage than it would have done with a physical launch, particularly with the fact their major players weren't afraid to use the dreaded "w" word that hasn't played much of a part in the Toyota F1 story. So could a win really be on the cards this year?

Time was when everyone would find some excuse to play up their chances in the pre-season launches. Remember Tyrrell's very plausible claim that their 1996 challenger – the 024 – that it was designed specifically to excel in the 75mph corners that prevailed in F1? It sounded sensible, and for a moment some thought a team revival was on the cards before reality set in and normal service was resumed for the gallant minnows.

So is Toyota's talk of fighting for a win just cheap talk? Well, it's not pure hubris, for the team made some big steps forward last year and the top brass are sensible enough not to make those kinds of noises unless they had real cause for optimism.

That is good news for F1. Toyota may be committed to the sport at the moment, but results surely need at least to be decent for the manufacturer not to reconsider its involvement in the long-term? That fact could make today's low octane launch very important for the health of the sport and the chances of one of the big names of the automotive world making a real mark in grand prix racing.

  FEATURES FROM JAN 15, 2009 - JAN 21, 2009
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Straw Poll: Toyota's launch
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Edd Straw is the editor of AUTOSPORT magazine, a role he moved into after six-and-a-half seasons covering Formula 1, during which he became Grand Prix Editor.

Originally from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, he joined AUTOSPORT in 2002 shortly after graduating from university. He went on to cover a wide range of categories from club motorsport to the World Touring Car Championship and Le Mans to Formula 3 before switching to F1 full-time at the 2008 French Grand Prix.

In his spare time, he was formerly a club racer whose abilities did not match his enthusiasm in a variety of categories.
Contact Edd Straw
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