So, Honda is out of Formula 1, what’s next ?

See Ya ! Message Honda sent to Formula 1 today

See Ya ! Message Honda sent to Formula 1 today

This was very quick sequence of events. First less than 2 days ago Nick Fry announced there will be no posh lunch with media, then Shuhei Nakamoto (blamed by many for the uncompetitve 2007 car) left the team. Half a day later rumours about something serious going on at Honda surfaced. By late last night it was open secret that Honda is planning a pull out from Formula One. Now it is official, Honda is yet again leaving the sport.

Although surprising (there was not much talk about Honda considering departure from F1) this step is rather logical. Honda spent huge money on their Formula 1 program but they never really made it.


Their best season was 2004 as engine supplier to BAR. BAR finished 2nd in constructors table and Button 3rd in drivers championship. The highlight of Honda team came in 2006 with Jenson Button’s win in Hungary. It all looked well then and future was bright. But then came crashing down to the back of the grid with uncompetitive 2007 car. And at the back they remained in 2008 too. What is the point being the biggest spender in F1 when the only team they could compete with was Force India running on shoestring budget … Add the dramatic drop in car sales and who can blame Honda for the decision they took … So from chasing Alonso’s signature the team now moves to chasing buyers … From hoping to return to the top with the new rules and new car in 2009 it is now about the fight for survival of what used to be one of the biggest spenders in Formula 1…

If Honda were the isolated case this withdrawal should not mean that much. The team is still there, all it needs is a buyer and an engine supplier. Unlike in case of Toro Rosso or Super Aguri, Honda is (was) a proper racing team with all the infrastructure and building their own cars. So whoever would buy the team would have a decent foundation to build on. And if Honda’s top brass has decided to shut the operation down anyway if no buyer is found they may be ready to simply “give the team away” as long as someone is ready to run it. Media have been already speculating that Ross Brawn may be working on engine deal with his old buddies in Ferrari, some potenatial investors are also said to be on the horizon.

Jenson Button, 2006 Hungarian GP - the only win for Honda team

Jenson Button, 2006 Hungarian GP - the only win for Honda team

The main thing that the team is now missing is serious funding from sources other than Honda. For past 2 years Honda went in rather weird direction painting their cars green and removing all the sponsors from the livery. Having an army of sponsors lined up would sure make the search for a buyer easier. There have been reports that Petrobras may be coming on board. But that was to have something to do with Petrobras’ new business activities in Japan. There may not be much Japanese connection left in what used to be Honda F1 team …

2008 Honda - the car without sponsors

2008 Honda - the car without sponsors

The major problem for Honda and for Formula One however may be that this is not an isolated case. There have been doubts about Renault’s long term commitment to F1 for quite a while. Would Toyota still have the motivation now when their main local rival is out ? Moreover Toyota issued an ultimatum during last season giving the team a deadline for getting some results. And that was when in general the times were still good. With hard times falling on the global car industry more manufacturers may follow Honda’s example. And the announcements may be as sudden as the one from Honda.

To add some fuel to the fire these problems are not limited to car manufacturers only. Toro Rosso is up for sale, Williams is not in the best situation with main bulk of its sponsorship money coming from almost bankrupt Iceland. Then there are the likes of RBS, Credit Suisse, ING – all major F1 sponsors, all facing tough times.

But is this all bad news ? It may well be. But it also may serve as a wake up call to all those who are in charge of Formula One today. Maybe this sudden and not exactly expected pull out of a major car manufacturer from F1 is the best thing happened to the sport in a long long time. Formula 1 was not always a sport of car manufacturers

Photos: Honda Racing F1

Last time a manufacturer quit Formula 1 was Ford at the end of 2004 season. That move affected not one but 3 teams. Ford owned Jaguar and Ford powered Minardi and Jordan. Already that time there were speculations some teams may have to run 3 cars to keep the grid decently filled with 20 cars. It all worked out that time. Red Bull took over Jaguar, Toyota supplied Jordan with engines and after the Americans took over Cosworth Minardi had their engines.

14 Comments Post a Comment
  1. AndyNo Gravatar says:

    Very good point that F1 was not always about manufacturer teams. I, for one was saddened when we lost Jordan and feared that we would lose all of the privateer teams.

    Maybe we shall see a return of more private teams?

    Even in these tough times, there will be a lot of people, with a lot of money that will be looking for an investment.

    In the light of the current situation, maybe Max & Bernie should be looking to make it easier for more privateers to come in and switch the focus away from attracting the big car manufacturers as they have done in the recent past.

    I’d love to see a return to the real characters of F1, the Stoddarts and Eddie Jordan’s of this world.

  2. BMWF1guyNo Gravatar says:

    I for one am a little shocked. Not that a team pulled out, but I was all but convinced that Toyota would be the first to go if any.
    Honda and Toyota are huge teams with far too much money being invested and little result. Both teams are not properly organized in F1 to weather a storm like the one we have now.

    I hate to say this, but it seems that the only one in F1 that really understood the crisis was Max Mosely (cough cough) and now he’s the one who is most likely to be the backbone that keeps F1 alive. It angers me to say this, but why on earth didn’t anyone really listen seriously. Bernie Ecclestone and Max have been at war with Bernie comfortable with spending at his end of things while Max has been trying hard to put the brakes on runaway spending.

    Eventually the bubble bursts, it always does. No organization can keep up with the increases in spending like F1 has without finally reaching the breaking point. It has happened in history time and time again so why did F1 think they were immune.

    Hondas demise is very disappointing, but it is now serving as a wake up call for F1 and by the time spending is in check, the F1 industry could very well be a shell of what it should be. Would have, could have, should have, didn’t, they are all words that will be used all too frequently in years to come.

    Wolf puts it right when he talks about sponsors of the other teams. I only have to pick up a newspaper daily, read the business section taking note of F1 sponsors and most are in the news and not because they are making money.

    If I sound angry in this comment, I am because F1 missed the boat and now have to pick up the pieces.

    BMWF1guys last blog post..Honda F1 Pulling Out of F1 by March 2009

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      I think Mosley was not the only one but he was one of the few pushing for something to be done about that out of control cost spiral. Unfortunately the ideas Mosley has been throwing on table are often ridiculous and the fall out is – no action, no cost saving …

      I hope something is done, something that FIA and teams find workable and something that will not kill what F1 is about. I am a bit worried howvever that everybody may overreact now and come up with more stupid ideas that this time would have chance to get implemented ….

  3. KotenokNo Gravatar says:

    “I do not see when the next team could join the F1 championship, I only imagine when the next team could leave the championship… ”

    My sentence was exactly meant for this case, I can’t say how I smelled it but it was a feeling that it will happen. Next season’s challange to make a car starting from zero? Lots of lost energy (and exponential growth of money spenses) to bring some success? The newcomming standard engines could stop manufacturers thinking F1 was a good sideboard? The car couldn’t do much more than be reliable but turtle-slow? The company didn’t do it again in MotoGP, 250cc and 150cc for several seasons among their huge expectations to switch their misfortune against Yamaha, Ducati, Gillera, Aprillia and Derbi? Something went wrong, during 2 years for this Japanese-British team in F1, but not only in there were the things not bright and clear. Honda’s motorsports may be a mistake to being top teams in several competitions and the development meant to be leading different categories (but not as engine supplier for Indycar teams were they have success). I think their movement leaving F1 is for their wealth, F1 was the worst billboard for their principal purpose selling their products: cars, motorbikes, airplanes, air-conditioning systems or whatever they sell wordwide.

    Now it could be a new team, owned by someone who could do the effort. As for me, the lack of sponsorship in Honda’s car isn’t really bad, having no problems that somebody brings their own names and trademarks to be announced, but that should be a kind of move like did RedBull’s buying Jaguar back to 2004 being supported by a millionaire as Mateschitz. Anyway, the team of technical’s and engineers shouldn’t lave the work on the car for the next season, while there’s a coin to develop the car for the next season they should spend it for try to sell the whole team. I can’t say the era of manufacturers ended, but for sure everything has been settled to happen in this way with the new technical regulations appearing and all these back-talks about standard components. Winds of change are coming to F1 (among wings and downforce fo sure :P ), hopefully they’re all for a good benefit.

    Kotenoks last blog post..F1Wolf added a video:

    • KotenokNo Gravatar says:

      Thinking it two minutes more, this really frustrate the opportunities of selling Toro Rosso in the uncertain situation now in a close future, as everybody will be interested in Honda clearly. Is this step done by the Japanese company before that any other teams decide to do the same and lose this basic time to find buyers before others do the same?

      Kotenoks last blog post..F1Wolf added a video:

      • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

        I am having my beer no 4 now so I may not be exactly sane at the moment but … Why would anyone want to buy toro rosso ? The team does not even have own car …

        • KotenokNo Gravatar says:

          HAHAHAHA :) Because it’s the cheapest variant to get an open door into F1, I think so. Anyway if nobody decided to buy the Faenza team before in such a successful year for them, why should this happen??? You told that with grateful conscience after 4 beers, I wouldn’t buy the team even if their car is successful, first I don’t have the money HAHA Second is that the investment for fulfilling the 2010 season rules is too big compared with the option of buying Honda F1 now. We will see what happens, the situation is annoying, Honda were testing new components for 2009 season few days ago and now the company which rule the F1 team decided to close…

          Kotenoks last blog post..F1Wolf added a video:

  4. kaushalNo Gravatar says:

    sad day for formula1 fans!
    we never thought this can happen in this quick time..
    well few facts about honda
    >The budget in 2008: Honda: $398.1m
    >Honda scored only 14 points in 2008 constructor championship.
    >he team cost per point in 2007 was $57.2m,highest than any team.
    >It is the third withdrawal from F1 for Honda, which first entered the auto racing championship in 1964

    kaushals last blog post..Honda Pulls Out of Formula1 !!

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      those dollar figures may not be telling the full story as for past fer years Honda bankrolled not only Honda Racing but also Super Aguri. but the fact still is, they do not have much to show for the money they spent …

  5. BMWF1guyNo Gravatar says:

    Is an F1 blogger ever sane? :)

    I’m really concerned for Toro Rosso.

    So what does Bernie do now when one of his policies is that here have to be 10 teams and 20 cars?

    BMWF1guys last blog post..Could it Have Been Avoided?

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      Bernie wll be one of those pulling all the strings to keep Honda on the grid. And perhaps lobby with Williams to keep the customer cars sort of semi legal and accepted ….

  6. kaushalNo Gravatar says:

    yeah.. an F1 blogger is sane.. just overreacted

    kaushals last blog post..Alonso threatens to quit

  7. F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

    Is F1 blogger ever sane ? – you got me thinking here :-)

  8. [...] So, Honda is out of Formula 1, what’s next ? Are the manufacturer teams actually good for Formula 1 ? From end of Tyrrell to end of Honda – Honda’s latest F1 odyssey in pictures Two out, nine to go – How will 2009 Formula 1 grid look ? [...]

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