Williams Grand Prix have confirmed that they are terminating their engine contract with Toyota one year ahead of schedule. Both Renault and Cosworth have been mentioned as possible replacements for Toyota.
As reported in The Guardian, team principal Frank Williams said, “At a time of great difficulty for us as a team, Toyota stepped forward and agreed to supply us with engines for 2007 through to the end of 2009. Toyota has been a very decent partner who has always respected our independence and provided us with a first-rate technical product. We are proud that we have been able to work with such a great company and we are grateful to the team in Cologne for their support.”
While Toyota have indicated publicly that they would have been happy to continue the arrangement, Williams have decided to seek their fortunes with another supplier. Although Toyota engines have proven to be reliable for the most part, it has been thought that they are suffering a power deficit compared to some of the rival powerplants on the grid.
One of the side effects of this switch is apt to be the displacement of Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima. It has been widely understood that Nakajima’s position on the team was at least in part a quid pro quo arrangement relataed to the supply of Toyota engines. Nakajima has been steadily outperformed by his team matae, Nico Rosberg, and it has been suggested that once Toyota is no longer on board as an engine supplier, Williams will have little motivation to retain Nakajima for another year.
Current rumors have Rosberg being replaced by Rubens Barrichello, currently at Brawn, in a straight driver swap, and Nakajima being replaced by Willi Weber’s current protege, Nico Hulkenberg. Weber, it will be remembered, was the manager who helped steer the career of a certain Herr Schumacher, and who continues to help hammer out the fine points of his contracts with the Scuderia to this day.
Image by dck47, licensed through Creative Commons.