Japanese carmaker Honda will concentrate on its core business, saying its withdrawal from F1 results from the world economic downturn. Pundits say scrapping the F1 programme will save Honda $US300 million a year.
The global economic downturn has claimed its first Formula 1 victim with Japanese manufacturer Honda saying it’s quitting the sport immediately and won’t be back any time soon.
Honda CEO, Tadeo Fukui, a racing fan who joined the company because it was involved in F1, announced the move in Tokyo overnight.
"The difficult decision has been made in light of the quickly deteriorating operating environment facing the global auto industry, brought on by the subprime problem in the United States, the deepening credit crisis, and the sudden contraction of the world economies,” Fukui said.
"Honda must protect its core business activities and secure the long-term as widespread uncertainties in the economics around the globe continue to mount.
"We will enter into consultation with associates of Honda Racing F1 and its engine supplier Honda Racing Development regarding the future of the two companies. This will include offering the team for sale.
"It's disappointing to me, personally, that we're pulling out in this fashion, having left no good results," Fukui said. "But I want this to be viewed as a sign of just how difficult the (automotive) business has become."
Fukui said Honda has no plans to supply engines to other teams: "we do not want to be half in and half out of the sport." European reports say Honda hopes to find a buyer for the team this month.
Honda F1 team boss, Ross Brawn, the former mastermind of Ferrari’s Grand Prix successes, has this year assembled and led a team of engineers and designers building a car which insiders consider would be a contender in the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship which begins in March.
Honda driver Rubens Barrichello, asked to rate the team’s 2009 F1 chances, told F1 magazine in October that after all the work Brawn and the team had done, “I feel we can be very positive about our chances next year.
“It’ll be the first year of Ross Brawn proper at Honda, which is very exciting (Barrichello worked with Brawn at Ferrari).”
In fact the Brazilian was upbeat enough about Honda in 2009 that he responded to the question of who he thought would be the next Brazilian F1 champion with: “that’s got to be me. Seriously, it’s got to be me, in 2009.”
Honda has been bleeding in the crucial US car market, where its sales fell 31.6 percent in November.
Revised production plans see Honda building 50,000 fewer cars in American this year. It has also said it will cut back production in other factories.
Carmakers Toyota, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Renault have said they will continue to compete in Formula 1, as will Ferrari which is owned by Fiat.