Toyota reeling after troubling first race


MANAMA, Bahrain -- Toyota, the biggest spenders in Formula One, left the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix empty-handed and in shock on Sunday.

Germany's Ralf Schumacher finished 14th and Italian Jarno Trulli 16th. To make matters worse, the Japanese car giant came in behind both cars run by Scuderia Toro Rosso, the new team formerly known as tailenders Minardi.

"The first grand prix weekend of 2006 has been a shocking way to start the year," said team principal Tsutomu Tomita in a statement. "It was a disappointing race and a disappointing weekend and certainly not what we expected coming here based on our performance in testing.

"It seems we have lost the considerable performance advantage we have built up since the middle of last year so we have a lot of work to do to understand the reasons."

Toyota, which entered Formula One in 2002, started the season optimistic after finishing fourth last year, its best finish yet.

Since then the team has switched from Michelin tires to Bridgestone, along with rival Williams which filled sixth and seventh places on Sunday.

"It was a disappointing weekend, so no excuses," said Toyota motorsport president John Howett. "We have to say that sometimes during the winter testing we hadn't looked that good but certainly we expected to be running at a similar pace, if not better, than Williams to be honest and we clearly weren't. We need to find out why. We can't blame the drivers so we've really just got to look and find out where we've got the issue.

"We really have to find out why we can't generate grip with the tires. We are already working now right through the night and day to see if we can recover anything. Never give up."

Schumacher said the weekend had been a struggle from the start and expected the next races in Malaysia and Australia to be difficult as well.

Trulli was baffled by the situation.

"I just pushed as hard as I could for the whole race -- but the harder I pushed the slower I seemed to go," he said.