Honda’s withdrawal from F1 has sent shockwaves through the sport, and left Ross Brawn and Nick Fry scrambling to find a new team owner before the start of the season.
Coming 40 years after Honda closed its original F1 operation, the decision was made public in Tokyo on December 6, although the management had known for a week. Prior to the announcement rumours had begun to sweep round the industry after Honda removed its engines and gearboxes from the race team’s Brackley factory.
Brawn and Fry (above) told staff their jobs would be guaranteed until March while they tried to find a suitable buyer. Fry insisted that three parties had expressed an immediate interest. It’s thought that one of them is the government of Abu Dhabi, which already owns a five per cent share in Ferrari. It seems likely that should the team survive, it will use Ferrari customer engines, available after the manufacturer’s split with Force India. However, modifying the RA109 design will be a massive task.
The Honda news came as a surprise to other team principals, who have had to face the fact that no one is immune to the financial crisis.
“Any news like that is very sad, especially for the people at the team,” stated Martin Whitmarsh of McLaren. “It’s sad that a brand like Honda which has been in Formula 1 several times before and always been prominent, has gone.
“We are now a subset of the automotive sector, no longer the tobacco sector, so this is an experience new to the sport. Having said that I think the teams have come together through FOTA, and it’s a great opportunity. It’s the first time in 58 years that there’s been an association which represents each of the competitors. The teams are really working hard together trying to reconcile different starting positions and different business models.”