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

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)

  1. Smitty said on 4th December 2008, 21:47

    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….

  2. HounslowBusGarage said on 4th December 2008, 21:53

    It’s on the BBC site now as well.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/7766092.stm

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

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

  4. diseased rat said on 4th December 2008, 21:56

    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.

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

  6. How many teams will follow?

  7. HounslowBusGarage said on 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?

  8. Alex Cooper said on 4th December 2008, 22:15

    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.

  9. 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.

  10. SoLiD said on 4th December 2008, 22:21

    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 :(

  11. muckymuck said on 4th December 2008, 22:22

    Alex – I wouldn’t say Honda is purely in the Asian market. They are in the world market now and are being affected by N.A. and Europe economic conditions directly. They have plants in these markets which are probably hurting and they have to be accountable to those workers. Not to mention the Asian market is better, but has still be falling over the last few weeks, only not as bad.

  12. always thought the green save our planet pr of Honda was a bit of a joke…now i get it…

  13. Robert McKay said on 4th December 2008, 22:24

    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.

    Without wanting to get into pedantics and legalese, but “permitted” specifically, or “required”?

  14. I can’t say for definate, but I think it’s obligatory.

  15. Alex Cooper said on 4th December 2008, 22:28

    muckymuck – I appreciate that the economic crisis is a global one, but equally what is a carbon fibre fabricator thinking while he tells his family that he may only have a few weeks of work left in one of the world’s most cash-rich sports, when Honda have been running a logo free livery for the last two years?

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