We all probably expected this to be a quiet week. It all turned out a bit differently.
BMW decided to pull the plug on F1. They surprised not only the public but also their drivers who had no idea such an option was even on cards (at least that is what Heidefeld, Kubica and Klien said). The focus of BMW debates is now shifting from “Why they decided to quit ?” to “What is next ?”
There are very much only 3 possible outcomes for the team. The team will be taken over by someone else, the team will disappear and FIA will select another entry for 2010 or the team will simply disappear without trace.
Given the facilities the team has built up since the purchase of Sauber it would be waste to simply scrap it. BMW probably would not mind to get some money back if a buyer with fat wallet can be found. But perhaps more likely scenario would be a “Honda/Brawn” kind of solution if someone currently involved with the team has a desire to continue. One name that immediately comes to mind is Peter Sauber (still a minority shareholder in the team). The other questions raised are where would the engines and money come from. I would also like to hear what do people over at Petronas have to say on BMW pull out … I mean other than saying they “fully respect the decision made by the BMW Group to pull out of the F1 championship at the end of this season” followed with this saying nothing statement:
“Petronas’ involvement in F1 with the BMW Sauber F1 Team has been that of a strategic partnership, to complement the company’s branding and business marketing objectives through the areas of premium branding efforts.”
Following the selection of USF1, Campos and Manor there were several serious possible entrants left out of the 2010 grid. Some of them may still be interested to get in. Epsilon Euskadi for example has already expressed their desire to fill the gap BMW exit may create. The question is, would any new entrant still have enough time to get everything ready for 2010 if they were to build everything from scratch ?
Kubica and Heidfeld now face the choice – to stay put or sign somewhere else before the good seats are gone. But what will be the good seats in 2010 … No matter what the form of all the teams is this year McLaren and Ferrari will be considered the safest bets. With Ferrari having already more big names connected with them than seats available we can expect a nice long queue forming in front of McLaren’s door …
Felipe Massa is fortunately doing well but it is likely that it will be a while before he returns to racing. Many names were mentioned as his possible temporary replacement but at the end it will be Michael Schumacher in the red car in Valencia. This would be the first opportunity for drivers like Hamilton, Kovalainen, Vettel to race against the 7 time champion in F1. It would not be the first time for Schumacher however to race against Piquet and Nakajima though, he had raced against these guys’ fathers . Also, if Schumacher races in Valencia, it looks like it would be for the first time since 1999 there will four F1 champions in the race (that time Hakkinen, Hill, Villeneuve and Schumacher) – correct me please if I am wrong.
Technically Schumacher should be fine. If Jaime Alguersuari could do well in Hungary why would anyone doubt ability of Michael Schumacher to race an F1 car, although a one he never raced before. Scary thought is however that his car will be one of the four with the magic KERS button …
And now to Renault. Currently the team is banned from European GP following Alonso’s wheel incident in Hungary. The team has appealed, of course. The appeal hearing is set for August 17, with verdict to be released on August 18. Then shortly after the Hungarian GP we could witness quite heated exchange of opinions (through media) between Flavio Briatore and Nelson Piquet (jr). Few days later Renault went straight line testing. And according to Brits On Pole (the guys had their man at the test) Romain Grosjean was on duty instead of Nelson Piquet. To add to the mess there has been talk there is an investor interested in buying the team and a bit away from F1 Renault (the company) announced yesterday a loss of $3.8 billion for the first half of 2009.