Toyota claims need for 'fresh ideas'

Toyota has explained that the 'need for fresh ideas' was behind its decision to hire different drivers rather than renew the contracts of Mika Salo and Allan McNish for next year. The aim is for the team to up its game towards a target of becoming serious contenders beyond 2004.

Toyota claims need for 'fresh ideas'

Toyota hosted a well-attended press dinner in Spa's casino - the oldest in the world, incidentally - at which boss Ove Andersson stressed that the decision not to continue with Salo and McNish was no reflection on either driver's ability.

Olivier Panis is confirmed in one of the cars next year, while it is believed that Toyota is still pressing to have Champ Car series leader Cristiano da Matta in the second. Fellow Brazilians Felipe Massa - dropped by Sauber in favour of Heinz-Harald Frentzen next year - and Williams test driver Antonio Pizzonia have also been mentioned, however.

Panis tested extensively for McLaren before signing a two-year deal with British American Racing and can therefore bring knowledge of top team methodology to Toyota. The fact that he has outqualified Jacques Villeneuve more often than vice versa at BAR this year will not have worked against him either.

Salo has confirmed that he will retire from F1 at the end of the year, while McNish, who has done an accomplished job in his first season, wants to continue in F1 if there is an opening.

The Scot can consider himself unfortunate not to earn a second season in a Toyota race seat. On qualifying pace he has been close to Salo all season and his race pace has been on a par.

Toyota GB managing director Graham Smith said: "I cannot comment on his performances in the car purely because I'm not close enough to it, but in terms of working with the support programme - in front of dealers or with customers - he has been absolutely first class."

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