It's game over for Honda F1, the first of the many more impact of the deepening global financial crisis on motorsports.
What a pity end to a team that powered legends like John Surtees and the late Aryton Senna to numerous Grand Prix victories. It would be some consolation if Honda could still remain as an engine supplier, as it did to Aryton Senna when he was with Lotus-Honda and later Mclaren-Honda. But this is no longer possible with the winding up of Honda powered privateer Super Aguri F1 team earlier this year.
The full press release from Honda Motor Co. can be found here.
We, Honda Motor Co., Ltd., have come to the conclusion that we will withdraw from all Formula One activities, making 2008 the last season of participation.The drastic step taken by Honda is understandable, and also a wise one. Honda is not alone. Toyota too is drastically cutting down F1 spending. It has announced that there will be no fancy red carpet and celebrities filled high glamour launch event this year for its 2009 F1 car; the TF109. Instead TMC will be having an "online launch" with images of the new TF109 with 2009 sponsors livery released simultaneously on all major F1 related websites.
This difficult decision has been made in light of the quickly deteriorating operating environment facing the global auto industry, brought on by the sub-prime problem in the United States, the deepening credit crisis and the sudden contraction of the world economies.
Honda must protect its core business activities and secure the long term as widespread uncertainties in the economies around the globe continue to mount. A recovery is expected to take some time.
None of the German brands (Mercedes and BMW) have announced any scaling back of their F1 activities. And neither Mercedes nor BMW is in any better financial situation than Honda or Toyota. In fact, they are faring a lot more worse than Honda or Toyota, with their out of touch with times high powered German luxury models. But unlike Mclaren-Mercedes or BMW F1, both Honda F1 and Toyota F1 have had very limited success in recent years. The decision to cut their investments is much easier to make. Plus, the Japanese are not engaged in the sort German civil horsepower wars like Mercedes and BMW are with their ridiculously powerful AMG and M models (Lets not forget Audi's RS models too). Motorsports involvement is very much part of these two brands identity and their heritage.
It will be interesting to watch how long will the Germans stick it out. There can be no motorsports until you start selling real cars for profit. The late Mr Enzo Ferrari was famously quoted of explaining his business plan as "race on Sunday sell on Monday." Obviously that sort of mentality has no place in today's competitive car market. If you need any further proof - Ferrari is now owned by Fiat. Porsche is the only independent sports car maker, and they build small little Boxsters to attract poor Porsche fans, the 911 on stilts Cayenne SUV for fat men who can't fit into a real 911 because they prefer golf and lunching than keeping fit on the race track, and of course the upcoming Panamera sedan for the pimps, rappers and celebrities. All are sold with the underlying goal of bringing in the cash to continue developing the next 911. Honda knows this very well, even though Soichiro Honda once said that if there is no racing there is no Honda. Then again, Enzo also says that he sees himself as an artisan, not a businessman or an industrialist.
But anyway, with the pull out of Honda only 18 out of 22 possible cars now fill the F1 starting grid. I get a feeling that this is a retribution to FIA supremo Bernie Ecclestone for failing to stop F1 costs spiralling out of control, desecrating the sport into a money game despite numerous pleas from privateer team owners like Eddie Jordan and Paul Stoddart. See, car manufacturers have very little commitment to the sport. They see F1 as nothing more than a marketing tool. Privateer F1 teams meanwhile, are the ones who will stick with the sport through thick and thin. These people live, breathe and eat Formula 1. As the sport slowly turned into a money game, these smaller teams can no longer afford to compete. We have lost many legendary teams with a long illustrious history in Formula One. Teams who contributed a lot to the growth of the sport and nurturing fresh new talents - Tyrell, Minardi, Jordan are among the casualties I can remember off hand. Car manufacturers on the other hand will come and go as they please. They exist to make money by selling cars while privateer teams exist to race. I hope the last remaining "old school" privateer team Williams F1 don't go bust too. Already, the sport is now only a mere shadow of itself. It has lost all the sportsmanship, at a time when drivers have self-respect and pride, drivers with an attitudes. Not the kind of "manufactured drivers we see today."
Richie Ginther delivered Honda's first GP win in Mexico 1965.
Williams-Honda driven by Keke Rosberg, Nico Rosberg's father.
Lotus-Honda of the late Aryron Senna.
Late Aryton Senna's Mclaren-Honda.
Williams-Honda of Nelson Piquet.
Honda's 200th GP with BAR-Honda team and Jacques Villenueve