Super Aguri barred from Istanbul track – are Honda killing their B-team?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Honda, Barcelona, 2008, 470150, 2

According to reports a Super Aguri transporter has been barred from getting into the paddock at Istanbul. Autosport claims this is because the team will not be racing next weekend.

Honda team principal Nick Fry told the magazine he does not believe the Weigl Group, who recently made a bid for the team, are able to support it.

Fry is believed to want to get rid of the team because he does not want to spend any more money on it. Honda spent $200,000 on ensuring the team was able to compete in the Spanish Grand Prix after a previous attempt by Magma Group to save the team collapse.

As has been discussed before on this site before it seems the manufacturers who jumped at the opportunity to set up ‘B teams’ a few years ago when it appeared customer cars were going to become legal are now dropping them as customer cars will not be allowed. Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz is also trying to sell his second team Toro Rosso.

Without Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson on the F1 grid will be down to just 20 cars, which is believed to be the minimum number Bernie Ecclestone is contracted to bring to Grands Prix. If another team were to disappear, three-car teams might be permitted in order to fill up the grid.

36 comments on “Super Aguri barred from Istanbul track – are Honda killing their B-team?”

  1. Robert McKay
    4th May 2008, 14:53

    I like and respect Super Aguri, but the “will they won’t they” saga over their survival has become as dull as the Max Mosely “will he won’t he” resignation scandal.

    The team are clearly on life support. Aguri will talk to anyone but Honda seem to be looking for the perfect buyer, which they’ll never find at short notice, and they seem to have taken the decision to pull the plug above Suzuki’s head. Seems like game over for them, shame. If you wanted to be cynical you’d say they sealed their own fate by making the Honda factory team look worse several times last year.

    But you’re right Keith – dificult times for the non-manufacturers. STR will need a buyer. Aguri need a buyer. I remain unconvinced about Mallya long term for Force India, though am hoping to be proven wrong – but people said Midland and Spyker were in it for the long haul. 3 car teams are not far away I suspect.

  2. Fry and co turned down the Magma offer because they want the $100m debt paid back, in full, right away. Weigl’s offer is to pay it back over the course of three years, so I’m not sure it will be any more attractive to them.

    If SAF1 go under, Honda get the team, factory, cars and all. No doubt they could sell this to another group or manufacturer in the future and make back what they’re owed, which seems more likely than Super Aguri progressing to the stage where they can feasibly pay it all back themselves.

    Sad times for the post-Minardi Minardi.

    As for two teams leaving and the grid dropping below 20 entrants, I think if the proposed budget cap comes in and works, we’ll see at least a couple of manufacturers join the party in the next few years. 24 drivers on the grid in 2012? I reckon it could happen.

  3. Peter Walker, post minardi?, i’m pretty sure Minardi are now Torro Rosso not Aguri….. hence the Italian name buddy!.
    unless you mean minardi in terms of the teams minnow size and giant aspirations?

    Bernie owns the Istanbul circuit doesn’t he? or a share of it. So he’s shooting himself in the foot.

  4. Bernie does indeed own Istanbul. Though if Honda refuses to budge, even Bernie may not be in a position to get Honda to give Super Aguri its cars back…

  5. Alianora, sweet as, looks like Max and Bernie have lost the normally vice like grip they hold over the sport.

    Why didn’t Nick Fry warn the other circuits after the Magma deal fell through?. Why now coming to Bernie’s own circuit?.

    I like nick Fry, he has a lovely smile.

  6. Possibly because they wanted to see what Super Aguri’s latest suitor was like before acting. I’m still unsure as to whether their judgement on Wiegl Group is accurate, but it’s not good for anyone involved for this to be happening.

    Though I will agree with you on Nick’s smile :)

  7. I think Pete meant they’re like Super Aguri in spirit, and the fact they’re always at the back. They’re everyone’s favourite underdogs.

  8. Not intending to change the subject, but if F1 lost two teams to fall to 18 cars, that’s 9 teams… If the teams were then required to run three cars (that share one pit stall!) that would mean the teams would also be running their one spare car and that there would be no extra cars in the event of a crash.

    It also introduces the possibility of a 27-car grid in the event that all the cars are fixed.

    Are those assumptions true?

  9. 30 cars.

  10. two teams, sorry!, yep 27 cars.

    that’ll teach me!

  11. Robert McKay
    4th May 2008, 16:50

    I’m not sure there’s anything in the rules that say all the teams have to provide a third car…presumably as long as a couple of teams bring us up to the minimum 20 required that would suffice? Maybe teams would rotate who would run the third cars to save money (presumably not having them eligible for WCC points).

  12. Robert Mackay, I get the feeling the teams would refuse to run a third car if its not in the rules and not in their interests (points, money). Especially a rota, since certain tracks favour certain cars.

    Sounds to me like the manufacturers are pulling as much weight as they can against the FIA and FOM.

  13. Robert McKay
    4th May 2008, 18:21

    “Robert Mackay, I get the feeling the teams would refuse to run a third car if its not in the rules and not in their interests (points, money).”

    I guess this is true, but I suspect that there is a clause in the Concorde agreement that says the teams agree that they may be required to provide third cars – there may not be any choice in the matter, contractually-speaking. Though whether the Concorde agreement is still strictly in place is a possible debate.

    It’s true that certain tracks favour certain cars but I suspect the rules don’t require there to be 20 championship-points-scoring-cars, just 20 cars. So if a third Ferrari is on the podium it “doesn’t count” (though you could arg being there in other peoples way would affect outcomes etc.). So in that case makes more sense for the teams to choose who will run the third cars which are basically just out to make up numbers. But this is just my speculation – I could very easily be a long way from what would actually happen. And even if Aguri go under, we still have just enough cars anyway.

  14. Robert McKay
    4th May 2008, 18:22

    arg=argue, sorry!

  15. if the third car rule has been put into the Concorde agreement by someone like Bernie we have a stalemate

    Bernie needs 20 cars
    hence Honda pull out of Aguri to bring the numbers down, next up Torro Rosso.

    anyway, back to Super Aguri, lets check the timeline of what happened?.

    * Honda pull away from Advertising to make the earth car, losing 50 mil a year in the process.
    * Honda pull out of funding Aguri possibly due to lack of funds from no sponsorship.
    * Aguri beats the Earth Car. Nick Fry’s lovely smile gets stretched.
    * Fry goes on a technical spending spree, hiring lots and lots of F1 knowhow
    * budget is stretched out and Honda decide not to sponsor ITV’s F1 coverage.
    * ITV hand over licensing back to the BBC and analyst state the Honda sponsorship being the major reason.
    * Aguri needs money, but honda wont fund them…

    if honda was sponsored themselves would that increase the budget enough to accomodate the little lovable Aguri Team?

  16. I think the issue is the customer car chassis more than money. Honda have enough money to save Super Aguri as it is.

  17. Yup, I meant they’ve replaced Minardi as everybody’s favourite struggling heroes.

    Regarding the number of cars at an event, I seem to remember last time the three car idea was mooted there was some talk that only some of the teams (ie, the leading teams) would have to bring a third car, not all of them. But its hard to think of a fair way to make that work.

    If we did drop to nine teams, I guess the increase in shared TV-rights money might go some way to make running the spare cars for a season feasible. But then there are no spares at all and whoever wrecks on a Friday misses out on the race. Can’t imagine that would be acceptable either.

    Its all a moot point anyway. I’m sure we won’t drop below ten teams anyway.

  18. It looks like Super Aguri won’t survive much longer, and all the great staff at Super Aguri (drivers included) will suffer the price.

    I really hope we don’t lose another team. It would be a shame to see Formula One falling to 9 running teams when it should have been 12 teams….

    This talk about if teams had to provide a third car to compensate – and if that drivers crashed the car…aren’t teams not allowed to bring spare cars anymore anyway?

  19. Allowing any team to run 3 cars will definitely require some new rules, and I’m sure they would still be allowed to have a spare chassis in the garage, as is the rule now. 3 cars just seems like such a can of worms though:

    * qualifying. Do the extra cars take part? Is Williams going to make a huge stink when the “3rds” bump real cars out of Q3?

    * points. Can 3rds score points? Probably not constructors points, as this would be unfair to teams not running 3rds. Driver points is possible.

    * team strategy. If 3rds can’t score points, would they be used to help out the 2 real drivers? Like create favorable SC periods or maybe even crash with other cars? Even if this wasn’t the intention, every time a 3rd crashes with a real entrant, this suspicion will be raised.

    This rule seems intended more for a 2005 Indy-style problem, where 2-3 teams have a problem only at one race. This could be plausible at Melbourne, if one car doesn’t pass crash tests in time, and others have severe trouble with air freight. 1-2 teams could run a 3rd car, with quick rules made up, and a championship race could still be held with happy sponsors. But, this is a one-race solution, and nothing more.

  20. The rule is specifically designed for lengthy periods when not enough teams enter, otherwise Japan 2002 (which only had 19 starters) would have triggered the three-car rule. It’s not clear how the three-car provisioning would work if it ever came to that, but I think all the teams are given the option of providing a third car. If there are insufficient third cars on track, then all the teams are punished.

    The trouble is that spare cars are banned and only two cars can be scrutineered at once. There are no exceptions provided – not even for the third car scenario. So a team would face needing three cars but only being allowed to have two working ones on track…

  21. Very sad for Super Aguri, I agree. Especially when a rival CEO can ring FOM and get them banned. Maybe McLaren could try this to get rid of Ferrari for a race? I know that if I were Sir Frank, I’d be getting rid of Renault, Red Bull and Toyota quick-smart! Three phone calls and you get rid of the competition!

    Is it even legal for Fry to do this?

    Sush, I think Nick Fry’s “lovely smile” might be what’s called a ****-eating grin, lol.

  22. Honda is killing this team. Why not transfer responsibility to another company since its already a loss making venture for them. Debt can always be paid back over time, but that can only happen when you are still afloat.

  23. Journeyer
    5th May 2008, 8:19

    Oliver, Honda’s strategy is to get Aguri sold on their terms. Honda want most or all of the cash upfront. If Aguri can’t sell themselves, then Honda will do it for them. Aguri is concerned about time, but Honda is concerned about the cash.

  24. It is really sad the way Honda is behaving. How can they stop one team from entering into the circuit. It is not very healthy sign for the sport and giving negative impression on the teams. Super Aguri is a small team and impressed a lot even in the 1st race.

    Again due to the bans it is very less likely any potential buyer would actually come and invest. The reason is very simple customer cars. Super Aguri team would not be supported any more due to the bans and Honda does not want to be beaten by the B team again and again.

  25. According to Pitpass a meeting on the team’s future will take place either today or tomorrow.

  26. Lady Snowcat
    5th May 2008, 10:05

    I think you’ll find Honda haven’t told people not to let them in, rather they’ve told FOM and Bernie that they won’t underwrite or supply Super A anymore…

    Without a Honda guarantee, which was given to let them in at Barcelona, Bernie won’t let them play…

    Honda had to say no sometime….

    Super A were meant to be self sufficient long before this…. instead they owe Honda multi millions… and have no funds to go forward…

    And they don’t own their factory…they lease it….

  27. But what business has FOM got with a team’s finances? If a team can show up at a Granprix venue why should they not be allowed to compete?

  28. if I’m not mistaken don’t teams have to pay an entry fee for every race? That fee I think also includes the hiring of the paddocks etc as well. I could be wrong but I think that’s the case.

  29. It is down to situations like this that I don’t like teams ‘cloning’ themselves out like this. It is a simular situation with Red Bull and Toro Rosso. I also don’t like the fact that teams can be allowed to sell other teams their engines, Toyota and Ferrari spring to mind, as I feel this lessens the competition factor.
    If Toyota supply Williams with engines, then in essence, Williams is just a Toyota B team, ripe for blackmailing if Williams beat them on track as Super Aguri did Honda.
    This is getting beyond a joke. To think of all the great teams we once had, teams with personalty and vision, teams like Ligier, Jordan, Brabham, Sauber.
    Now all with have is faceless corporations, men in suits, who are only interested in selling people new Accords and Civics and know bugger all about motor racing. Time to take another Prozac I think!

  30. Weren’t Sauber a Ferrari B-Team? Monza ’03 springs to mind….

  31. p.s. Sorry about the s and the t Keith.

  32. If your looking to blame someone in the Honda F1 camp for pulling the funding out from SA look no further than Ross Brawn, he’d want every available dollar to go to his team, there are large expectations on his back.

    Reportedly it only cost Honda 200K to fund SA at Barcelona; chump change IMHO. Sure, Turkey will cost a bit more due to extended travel, but how much more?

    Not enough to shut the team down. To extract the best deal they can from Weigl, and to have him expose his true financial backers Honda have to APPEAR willing to kill off the team.

    Hardball negotiating at the last minute. SA will race this Sunday.

  33. Exactly what Honda should realise is the complete negative publicity against their team at the moment even if they aren’t responsible to the average fan they are responsible.

  34. this just in http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2008/5/7730.html

    over to Keith with the sports.

    sad day indeed.

  35. Journeyer
    6th May 2008, 9:42

    Well, Rabi, I think Honda are beyond caring about their negative publicity now. They seem to be more concerned with the money…

    What a sad day for F1. Back to 20 cars in a year we were hoping for 24.

  36. Thanks for the tip Sush: Super Aguri leave Formula 1

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