The usually quiet weekend between two Formula 1 races was this time interrupted by accelerating developments surrounding Super Aguri team. First on Friday Super Aguri team and Weigl Group confirmed the talks. Then Nick Fry on Friday expressed his doubts about the deal and called it unlikely. Franz Josef Weigl responded quickly. In the meantime the Super Aguri cars were spotted to be in Honda’s Brackley factory instead on ferry from Trieste to Istanbul. I tried to keep track of these developments in this post.
Then on Sunday things took a turn for worse for Super Aguri. The team were denied access to Istanbul paddock allegedly after Honda Racing CEO Nick Fry had informed F1 management that Super Aguri would not be racing in Turkey. It appears that while Aguri Suzuki is pulling all the strings to keep the team afloat, Nick Fry is determined to bury Super Aguri F1 operation. Now, why would that be ?
I think the main reason for Fry to be suddenly so eager to see Super Aguri go (either away or under) is the genuine need for Honda to fully focus on their own development ahead of brand new F1 starting from 2009. I am sure if Suzuki was to find a slid buyer or investor that would stabuilize the team Fry would have nothing against it. Honda I believe would not mind supplying customer engines if they were to get paid for them. Supplying engines to 2 teams clearly does no harm to Ferrari, does it ? But Honda does not provide Super Aguri with engines only. Super Aguri chassis and pretty much the complete cars come from Honda. That would likely be the case at least all through the rest of 2008 season. I also think that 2009 would not be too different. Even if Super Aguri were to build their own cars from 2010, they would need some legal car for 2009. The new rules will require brand new cars and Super Aguri would sure not be able to build that themselves. The car would again have to come from Honda (unless some other team would be willing to chip in spare chassis or two). Honda as it becomes apparent is not willing to finance this any longer. If they see an investor coming to Super Aguri with pockets deep enough to pay Honda for all the supplies I expect Honda to be happy to dance along. So why is Nick Fry that negative about Weigl Group ? I think the answer is simple.
Clearly Nick Fry and Honda F1 team do not believe Franz Josef Weigl and his company have what it takes to finance Formula 1 team. I did a bit of a research and found this chart on Weigl Group website. To make long story short the company’s sales in 2007 were EUR130 mil (USD200 mil approx). Whatever figures there are beyond 2007 are only hopes and expectations. Let’s assume that Weigle Group is extremely profitable manufacturing company and makes let’s say USD30 mil profit on USD200 mil sales. I find that very unlikely, but anyway. How far would USD30 mil get them in F1 ? Not too far. Weigl does not sound to me to be a company much richer than Midland was (although definitely more relevant). Nor does it seem to me to be any more ready to spend the big bucks on F1 as Spyker was. Well, they do claim that they have investors lined up behind their plan. But, there was this other automotive group called Magma few month ago, backed up by investors until they backed off … Nick Fry and Honda are clearly not prepared to endure yet another round of the same old game.
While saying all the above I do not think Honda as of today are 100% decided to bury Super Aguri. I however believe they are 100% decided not to put another dime into the Super Aguri team. I think that the only chance there is for Super Aguri to continue is that Weigl Group or any other party that may be involved in the talks comes and puts serious cash on the table (or in Honda’s bank account). Plans and promises will do not any good for any longer … It is “Show me the money” time…
Photo: Honda F1 Racing, Super Aguri F1