The rumour mill is working overtime on everything cars at the moment. But this story seems to be for real. Honda is set to announce that its Formula 1 Team is to be put up for sale with immediate effect, and if no buyer materialises then it intends pulling out of the new Formula 1 season due to start in March 2009.
The F1 Team costs Honda some £200 million a year to run. In normal times this is considered money well spent, as the kudos from the team, the high-profile it lends the brand and the technical breakthroughs which filter down in to Honda road cars justify it. But these aren’t normal times.
Honda has recently announced a 50 day shutdown of UK Car production in Swindon, which is just the tip of the iceberg for Honda, with worldwide car sales in free fall. It obviously feels it just cannot justify the commitment to F1.
In truth, this will have more impact on the UK than anywhere else. The UK is the world centre for F1, and it is probably fair to say that the Honda withdrawal from F1 will threaten thousands of jobs in the UK, the most high-profile of which would be Jenson Button.
Poor old Jenson. Probably the best driver of his generation, he’s never really had the car to showcase his talent. He had high hopes for Honda in the next 2 years, but it looks unlikely the team will survive. Along with Jenson will fall Ross Brawn, arguably the greatest F1 race mastermind there is (responsible for much of Michael Shumacher’s success). At this stage it looks extremely unlikely that Button will be able to find a drive for 2009, although Brawn’s talents will probably have other teams queueing for his services. Assuming of course that Formula 1 itself manages to survive.
With Honda already dropping its Super Aguri team, and Prodrive deciding not to race next year, this could leave the F1 grid with only 9 teams.
Times is tough.