After a roller-coaster 1984 season, the Toleman team had had an equally difficult winter. They had a new chassis, the TG185, Hart engines, and the services of Stefan Johansson in the cockpit, but their big problem was tyres. The team had begun 1984 on Pirelli rubber but after a very public falling-out with them, they had switched to Michelin – only for the French company to withdraw from F1. With going back to Pirelli not an option, the team tried to get a Goodyear deal but for whatever reason they refused to supply them. So winter testing was very limited, and conducted on a mixture of tyres borrowed from other teams, and some old Avon tyres left over from their withdrawal from F1 in 1982 – but these weren’t regarded as safe enough to race on. With no main sponsor on board either, it seemed the team would struggle to hit the heights of 1984 – if they made it to the grid at all. If they did, there was a comeback on the cards for veteran John Watson, without a drive for ’84 but who had done winter testing and was confirmed as their second driver.
Johansson’s F1 career so far had been a story of unfortunate timing and bad luck, which was a shame since he clearly had bags of talent. Half a season with Spirit had seen him replaced by the better-funded Mauro Baldi, and when he did manage to get another drive, it was with Tyrrell just as the lead ball scandal erupted, before joining a Toleman team struggling to deal with Senna’s departure to Lotus. If he had looked forward to being the team leader going into 1985, the team’s problems over the off-season must have worried him.
John Watson’s F1 career seemed to have reached its natural end when he was dropped by McLaren at the start of 1984 in favour of Alain Prost, and he had spent the previous season enjoying himself racing sportscars – most notably partnering Stefan Bellof to win the Fuji 1000km as the German driver won the World Sportscar Championship title while also impressing in his Tyrrell. However, he was called up by the Toleman team for winter testing and despite the limited nature of the testing programme he was offered the full-time drive.