FIA and FOTA came to some sort of agreement on cost cutting at their meeting yesterday. We are to see tomorrow what are they so happy about. But besides cutting the expenses the teams also need some sort of income from sponsors or drivers. Here is quick overview of the latest developments on F1 sponsorship front:
McLaren fitted their car with the 2009 style front wing in Jerez today. I am not sure if it works better than the BMW Sauber snow plough but it definitelly has much more elegant look. Glimmer of hope that the 2009 cars may not be that ugly .
I admit that when I read yesterday the reports about the Cosworth standard engine deal being as good as done what caught my eye was that besides Williams, Force India, Red Bull and Toro Rosso also Renault is to be one of the teams interested in running it. But after digesting the information for a while I realized that I would not be really surprised if Renault indeed went down that road. Since last night however few other questions popped up in my mind:
When Autosport runs a story it usually turns out to be true. So this may be more than just a rumour. Cosworth is about to return to Formula 1 with a bang – powering half of the F1 grid.
It looks like Max Mosley got all the signatures he needed for go ahead with the Cosworth standard engine program. He needed at least 4 teams to sign up for three-year Cosworth engine deal. The reports are he got five.
Red Bull’s consultant Helmut Marko came out to quickly reject any suggestions that Red Bull may follow Honda and bow out of Formula 1.
“They are safe right now. But RBR could save 30 percent of their budget.”
I do agree, they are safe, but right now only. By ‘right now’ I mean 2009 season.
We can’t say this off season is boring although last week started a bit quietly. Toro Rosso announced on Monday that the Honda refugee Takuma Sato will get another chance to prove himself in Jerez.
Then on Thursday FOTA met in London to discuss the cost cuts and spicing up the qualifying. The teams came up with a plan to propose a new low-cost engine for 2011 and other substantial cost-cutting measures for the next two years include drastically reducing the current 30,000km testing limit by half. The new engine is to be 1.8-litre turbocharged unit featuring energy recovery systems and consuming 30% less than current F1 engines.
While FOTA members talked the media started to be full of reports of something big brewing in Honda offices.
Judging from the Google stats the main point of interest of general F1 fan in past few weeks was – How will the 2009 cars look. From Friday the fifth 2008 the question has changed somehow – How will the 2009 F1 grid look ?
Honda is out of Formula 1, here is their latest Formula 1 odyssey in pictures, from end of Tyrrell to end of Honda:
1998 – British American Tobacco buys Tyrrell
1999 – Tyrrell renamed to BAR and enters with the schizophrenic Lucky Strike / 555 livery
Everyone seems to be shocked by Honda’s withdrawal from Formula One. I myself was suprised that it was Honda that pulled the plug on F1 first but I am not surprised at all that a major car manufacturer left the sport. After all this has happened many times before.
Formula 1 these days is dominated by car manufacturers but this hasn’t always been the case. If you look back to for example 1999 the only proper manufacturer team was Ferrari. Mercedes powered McLaren was the next closest thing, all the rest were privateers. The big shift came next season in 2000. BMW returned to the sport as an engine supplier for Williams, Honda joined forces with BAR, Ford turned Stewart into Jaguar and Renault purchased Benneton. In 2002 Toyota entered Formula One circus and towards the end of the season Honda dropped engine deal with Jordan to fully focus on BAR team from 2003 on.
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.
It is official now – Honda Motor Co. withdrew from Formula One, saying racing costs too much amid the global fiscal crisis. Honda may put Brackley based team up for sale, President Takeo Fukui said today at a news conference in Tokyo.
Honda also said it has no plans to continue supplying engines for Formula 1 cars.
So the rumours became reality…
Statement from Takeo Fukui:
They started the year running and supporting 2 Formula One teams – Honda and Super Aguri. not being able to find a buyer they pulled the plug on Super Aguri after 4 races. Now one of the biggest spenders in Formula One are about to pull the plug on the entire Formula One operation. The official announcement is expected early today, according to Reuters at 1:30pm Japan time. The news about Honda pull out are all over the place, but nothing at the moment on Honda websites.
The reports are that Honda aims to find a buyer for the team by March, if not they will simply shut it down. It is not clear if the pull out will be complete or if Honda will continue to supply engines. We may need to wait for the official annoucement.
I must say I found the one day old news about Honda cancelling the expensive media lunch a bit weird but I haven’t expected that to be a prelude to something this much bigger. Now I am going to digest this news and wait for some official word from Honda. But it looks like instead of asking where are some new Formula 1 teams going to come from we may start wondering how many teams are actually going to stay …