Cologne, Monday: The Toyota Formula One team has today announced a major reshuffle among its race team staff, with the biggest news being the “re-assignment” of the team’s chief strategist to a factory role.
Magic Eight Ball, who has been with the team since they first began preparations to enter F1 in 2001, was criticised after a poor call in the Bahrain Grand Prix led to Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock finishing low in the points rather than challenging for the squad’s maiden win. Mr. Ball decided to run the two drivers’ longer stints on the uncompetitive medium tyre, allowing Jenson Button to leapfrog the pair and claim victory in Sakhir.
“Some teams use calculators or spreadsheets to work out the optimum race strategy,” Toyota had previously boasted. “But our Magic Eight Ball is better than that.” It now appears that the Japanese manufacturer has changed its mind on the matter, with Ball now to work as a supervisor in the team’s Cologne base.
A source at Toyota said: “Magic Eight has been with us for a long time, and obviously it’s a shame to see him go from the race team. He was always so reliable – you’d just shake him up and there was your answer.”
Ball’s solutions to routine strategic problems were often unconventional, such as instructing Jarno Trulli to qualify on three litres of fuel in the 2005 US Grand Prix or telling both drivers to get in Fernando Alonso’s way in Japan in 2006. The seemingly random nature of his decisions, however, were seen by Toyota management as being a strength, making it harder for competitors to guess what Ball was going to do next.
Doubts have existed for a long time about Ball’s ability to accurately judge situations, however. Some prominent Toyota figures were calling for him to be replaced as early as 2004, when he disastrously advised bosses to “hire Ralf.”