Speculation around Honda’s F1 future (Update: Honda to sell team or quit)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Is Honda planning to pull the plug on its F1 team?
Is Honda planning to pull the plug on its F1 team?

Pitpass and GrandPrix.com are questioning the future of Honda’s F1 team and suggesting it could be sold or pulled out of F1.

Is this just speculation during a slow time for Formula 1 or is Honda about to become F1’s first victim of the financial downturn?

Grandprix.com had previously downplayed stories about Honda’s $217m expenditure on F1 last year. It pointed out the reason Honda had spent so much more on F1 than its rival teams was because of its investment in Super Aguri.

Honda ceased supporting Super Aguri earlier this year. Yesterday we learned it had cancelled an expensive media lunch and much-criticised designer Shuhei Nakamoto had left.

Like almost every other car manufacturer on the plant, Honda is suffering the effects of the global financial downturn. Two weeks ago it announced it would close its plant in Swindon for two months next year. Its US sales have fallen by almost a third.

Honda have fallen into a slump since Jenson Button scored the team’s first F1 win at the Hungaroring in 2006. After a disastrous 2007 Nick Fry hired Ross Brawn to turn the team’s fortunes around. Although 2008 has seen little improvement the team is believed to have focussed its efforts on its 2009 car in order to take advantage of next year’s swingeing rules changes. Has that gamble worked against it in the prevailing financial climate?

The loss of another team could reduce the F1 entry to nine teams and 18 cars. That is understood to be below the minimum number of cars F1 is contractually required to bring to each round, raising the possibility of some teams being asked to field three cars.

However it’s impossible to say anything for certain about the Honda’s future or its consequences for F1. I hope the reports are untrue, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for further details. Please post anything else you find below.

Update: Pitpass claims the workforce were told tonight that Honda will not be competing in F1 next year and the team is to be put up for sale.

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67 comments on “Speculation around Honda’s F1 future (Update: Honda to sell team or quit)”

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  1. Aparently there are a couple of potential buyers in the pipeline. I read a while back that Adrian Campos was making moves to step his team up from GP2 to F1. Campos-Ferrari next season?

    The possibility of three car teams next year is a potential minefield. It seems impossible to imagine that all teams could afford to run three cars… whats the fairest way of deciding which teams do?

    Tricky times ahead…

  2. Is this an opportunity for Prodrive to act on their interest in having an f1 team? With David Richards former involvement with BAR makes it a plausible option

  3. Whatever happens the axe will fall, anyone stepping up to F1 from another series will take an amount of staff with them and once up to speed redundancies would surely follow for the people that helped teach them the facility, etc

    DR has just i think layed off staff with Aston Martin so i doubt it ‘arporter’

    Anyone from outside buying it could possibly decide they cannot afford to keep on that many staff and a lot of the most talented staff will already have made arrangements to seek work or be trying to now or be head hunted in the transition period.

    All this makes it a pretty uncertain future for a lot of people over a supposedly relaxing part of the year.

  4. If there are a couple of potential buyers in the pipeline, presumably they’d also have shown an interest in STR.

    What little interest there has been in STR is by people/groups who want to know what the “customer car” regulations are going to be over the next few seasons. They want to come in and run the team like STR has been – i.e. get a manufacturer to do all the work for you, give you all the bits, and you just do the day-to-day running of their B-team, in effect.

    I’m willing to bet there may be a certain amount of interest in Honda for the same reasons, but I’m much less certain there’s anyone who wants to come in and run their own “proper” team.

    This sort of thing is only going to add to Mosely’s case for basically spec-series F1.

  5. Pedro Andrade
    4th December 2008, 21:25

    This sort of thing is only going to add to Mosely’s case for basically spec-series F1.

    In all seriousness, I’m actually beginning to think the man was right about those things… Maybe it’s the only way left to save Formula 1, at least untill the economy settles down.

    And I continue to think a budget cap would be a good solution for this problem.

  6. According to a member of my family who is an engineering supplier to F1, the word is that Toyota will pull out in January 2009 under similar terms to those set out by Honda. I have no idea how accurate this information is.

    What a disaster this all is for the sport.

  7. Sgt. Basecamper
    4th December 2008, 21:34

    I guess the financial situation was just the final thing needed to pull the plug. Part of blame could as well be put on all the rumors about the future of F1. Sole engine supplier, the move to Asian venues, no race in North America, the classic tracks in France, the UK, and Germany in doubt… The F1 they joined and saw as a good investment due to prestige and marketing, could very well be gone in 2-3 years time. Why spend a lot of money on a sport when not even the fans really can get a grip on the situation? Better to withdraw, and eventually make a new start later on. But I doubt that any auto manufacturer would want to run a team in a F1 series with standard engines. Then other racing series (like touring car championships) could be more interesting from a marketing perspective. Maybe the new F1 in a few years time is again dominated by small private teams?

  8. TommyBellingham
    4th December 2008, 21:39

    HONDA are so funny. They give everyone false hope saying they are going to challenge for wins next year then instead quit F1. I dont get how anyone can be a HONDA fan?

  9. Tommy, you clearly do not understand how major companies work, especially those based in other countries. Monetary decisions to pull out are made at Director level of the main group not operational level of the dependent company for things like this.

  10. If Honda suddenly decides to pull out, the other manufactures could do just the same thing.

    Dammit, this is a b***h! Just when Honda had the chance to finally become good again – this happens.

    Rubens may be able to get a drive at Toro Rosso (which he probably would have done anyway) but Button and Senna are screwed for this year (and Button maybe forever!)

    With this expected announment of immediate retirement – Toyota and Renault may follow later on. This may be a big change for F1 – with big spending manufactures leaving and privateers replacing them cos they can afford it.

    ….To be honest, I would kind of welcome that….

  11. HounslowBusGarage
    4th December 2008, 21:53

    It’s on the BBC site now as well.

    Leon @ post 27. Toyota as well? Bernie might be able to miracle one team into staying in F1, but two?

  12. Bernie does own the rights to GP1. I fear (or maybe hope, as Max will be running F1) that this will be the future!

  13. According to some posters on the Autosport boards the minimum number of cars for each race is 16, not 20. I have no idea what the true number is.

  14. diseased rat, that is what the rules say. The contracts, according to reports, stipulate 20 cars.

  15. How many teams will follow?

  16. HounslowBusGarage
    4th December 2008, 22:12

    Neal, are they the FIA rules? Something like “A GP will have a minimum grid of 16 cars, below which points won’t be awarded” or something like that?

  17. The cynic in me wonders if Honda is saving face in the possibility of a third straight F1 car that may well be another dud.

    They pinned everything on their 2009 car from very early on this season. If the money was an issue (and bear in mind that Honda is based in an Asian market that isn’t said to be suffering as much as its Western counterparts) then why didn’t they find a sponsor instead of pushing the (now ill-fated) green theme?

    If this is true it’s an appalling way for Honda to treat the poor people in Brackley in the run up to Christmas.

  18. My understanding of the regulation are that should a grid reach 16 cars, all eight teams are permitted to run three cars, thus boosting the grid up to 24.

  19. They should be rethinking the customer cars.
    This way one manufacter can provide 2 teams (extra income) and the second team has a ‘cheap’ car.
    And rearrange the Money pot even better…
    Finally they shall have to!

    Honda away would be bad, but if toyota goes aswell, that would be disaster :(

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