The stories about Toyota doing a deal with HRT for next year continue, but none of them really make much sense. What is clear is that the team is not going to move to Cologne because Toyota needs the facility for its future Le Mans programme.
Our sources in Spain insist that a Toyota deal was signed a few months ago by team owner Jose Ramon Carabante, but the Spaniard then changed his mind because of the cost of the deal and has been trying to negotiate his way out ever since. Clearly the folks at Toyota in Cologne would need to be paid something for their efforts in the interim, which apparently amounted to continuing the development of a 2011-version of the 2010 car, which has never been raced.
It makes no sense at all for the Spanish team to part with money and get nothing at all from the situation, and a logical compromise would be for HRT to pay Toyota a sum in settlement for the lapsed deal, but to get something as well. If the team were to acquire the intellectual property rights to the Toyota chassis and then use the data to build their own car then everyone would be happy. There are a number of knock-on effects of such a course of action, notably that the HRT team would need to find a wind tunnel capable of running 60% models as Toyota’s work has all been done with a 60% wind tunnel. This is good news for Williams as the Grove team has a 60% wind tunnel available (it has two) and so it makes sense for HRT to expand it deal with Williams.
There has been speculation that as part of the deal HRT might agree to run Williams F1 test driver Valtteri Bottas, who has lost out on a chance at Williams because the team is taking on pay-driver Pastor Maldonado. This is possible, but one can also imagine a situation in which Williams might agree to loan out Nico Hulkenberg to HRT as it does not want to lose control of the German, who has a longterm contract with Williams. This would give HRT a driver with potential and useful experience. The word is that the team has now found a backer to replace the Carabantes, but it remains to be seen whether or not they want to face up to the failure or go trying to raise money in Spain, where no-one seems interested in anything other than Fernando Alonso. If there is a deal with a Repsol or a Telefonica it would have happened by now…
It will be interesting to see who pops up in the next few weeks. However, it is also clear that things are on the move at HRT.