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. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th December 2008, 22:36

    I’ve written a new post to gather together some of my reaction to the news:

    How will Honda quitting affect F1?

  2. Andrew Tsvyk said on 4th December 2008, 22:36

    To Haplo: When Ford announced about the sale of Jaguar Racing in 2004, they had been losing money for 3 years or so. How can you compare Ford and Honda? Honda still is a profitable company, while Ford had not been one in 2004.

  3. Robert McKay said on 4th December 2008, 22:51

    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?

    Probably the same thing the poor guy at the Honda Swindon factory thats shutting down for 2 months, or the delayed one in India, is thinking as he fears for his job whilst watching his company plough hundreds of millions of dollars into a non-essential sport.

  4. muckymuck said on 4th December 2008, 23:00

    Alex – That’s true enough…I see your point about Honda being logo free and cutting F1 jobs right before Christmas. I still think money is a factor, but maybe optics is even more important. F1 can come off as a luxury to the manufacturer teams in the eyes of the public who see their core business as manufacturing (Only Ferrari treat it as a core component of their business).

    It’s partially Honda’s own fault for being self-reliant and not selling ad space on their livery as well as expanding rapidly this year. Now that it’s crunch time, it all backfired on them.

    Dang it…I really wanted to see what their new car could do over the next season…

  5. Too Good said on 4th December 2008, 23:02

    Tommy, you clearly do not understand how major companies work, especially those based in other countries.

    Mav – its not about “Other countries”. Living in what used to be automobile capital of the world, I am close witness to “how major companies in western world work” as well. And to be honest the amount of uncertainity, lack of communication till the boat is just about to capsize is just the same ( refer the crumbling of Big Banks in recent days)

    Coming back to Honda Story, apparently Honda Bosses in Japan have finally realised that the British Management under Nick Fry had systematically taken them for ride, by pushing their own agenda ahead and marginalizing the Tokyo backed “Men” in boardroom politics ( One example that comes to mind is Gil-De-Ferran). I think Honda’s announcement is more to this internal Politiking with Nick Fry and his cronies. Not to mention for carte blanche that Tokyo bosses gave him Nick couldn’t deliver anything worth mentioning in last three years other than the chance win in rain affected Hungary’06.

    Relation between Nick Fry and Honda bosses must be like of Fund Manager and Investor in Sinking markets, The Investor finally has lost confidence in Fund Manager’s capability to give them returns.

    As much as I would feel bad about Leaving of another team. I always felt it was just matter of time that this was to happen. I wonder, why Nick and Brawn made it known to their FOTA counterparts :? Is it another last ditch attempt to get some personal benefits by making FOTA bosses make some choices under Duress :?

  6. Robert McKay said on 4th December 2008, 23:10

    I wonder, why Nick and Brawn made it known to their FOTA counterparts

    Because they can hardly stand toe to toe with the other FOTA members talking about drastic cost-cutting measures and not mention Honda’s withdrawal, it would completely undermine FOTA’s position against Mosely and make all the teams look very silly indeed if Honda wer backing something that was far too late to save them.

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th December 2008, 23:24

    Too Good – Shuhei Nakamoto is British?

  8. This was the piece of news i wasn’t expecting to hear..Honda had focus its development on the next season, was looking for drivers etc..and suddenly oops.
    Hasn’t Petrobras move from Williams to Honda for next season? If Toyota goes next i wonder what will happen to F1..
    No Honda + Senna for next year :|
    I still hope this news turn out to be false or if they happen to be true that a buyer comes forward..but who in this current crysis has the money and/or will to do that :(

  9. http://www.autoblog.com/2008/12/04/honda-f1-team-for-sale-no-buyer-means-no-2009-season/

    “Finding someone to back the team during these tumultuous times is going to prove difficult and there’s already talk that Bernie Ecclestone may step in to attempt to work out a deal to keep Honda around.”

  10. Too Good said on 4th December 2008, 23:56

    Shuhei Nakamoto is British?

    Nick Fry , Ross Brawn, Jenson Button, Ant Davidson,James Rossiter, Mike Conway are they Japanese?

    Look at course of events ever since Dave Richards Left and Nick Fry has taken over. This team has been quintessential a british outfit with blank cheque from Japanese Top Management? Nick has been systematically making this team as “Of the, By the, For the” British,

    As though there is dearth of Talent in Japan to be brought on board as “Development drivers”. While James Rossiter was pushed across the American Counterparts to Run for AGR racing, was the favor returned by decent test drives to Danica/Marco? Answer is sadly NO. Mr Fry has been Flip-Flopping on it throughout 2008.

    Wooing of Barichello through Ferran, and now systematically cornering the Brazilian after similarly shunting off Gil is another story.

    Do we have to go through series of events where Aguri Suzuki was running from Pillar to post and getting backers from Magma, Spice Group (India) and Mr. Fry was single handedly blocking all those moves. Most dodgy was Fry Blocking Spice Group and Narain Karthikeyan ” Narain doesn’t fit in Honda culture“.

    It was like give us blank cheques and don’t ask for anything in return :)

    I am sure Nick Fry must have pocketed enough Moolah in this engagement, if only he gets it onboard the team can run for another couple of years ;)

    Reminds me of the ” One bad Apple making the entire Basket Stinky”

  11. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th December 2008, 0:42

    Robert McKay –

    They can hardly stand toe to toe with the other FOTA members talking about drastic cost-cutting measures and not mention Honda’s withdrawal, it would completely undermine FOTA’s position against Mosley.

    Yep I think that’s it.

    Too Good –

    Nick has been systematically making this team as “Of the, By the, For the” British.

    I think you have an oddly paranoid take on what happened. Honda did give Andretti a test but even so with testing miles so tightly restricted why should they be giving tests to drivers with who are not strong road circuit drivers to begin with? For that matter why should Honda have propped up an ailing B-team that was costing them money? And if Fry was running the team ‘for the British’ why was a Japanese motorbike designer put in charge of aerodynamics?

    I don’t claim to have a deep understanding of what’s gone on at Honda over the past few years but your point of view is so vehemently put I think you just have a grudge against them for some reason.

  12. Too Good said on 5th December 2008, 0:57

    Andretti a test but even so with testing miles so tightly restricted why should they be giving tests to drivers with who are not strong road circuit drivers to begin with?

    Keith, Thanks for pointing to the testing restrictions, a point that was sadly forgotten by many on this forum when beating down Nelson Piquet that he didn’t get enough car time in 2007 season, since “Race drivers used most of the test time”.

    Anyways Just to set records straight, Andretti has had lousy seasons after sensational debut in 2006, when his good performances were on some of the road circuits as well.

    FYI IRL is not just Oval racing ;) .

    And that still leaves the question open, when your backer is Japanese Auto Giant, and a country that has immense F1 following and good Motorsports tradition, What had Fry and Co to offer to Japanese Fans ? Not a Single Japanese Development driver :?. The conways and rossiters.. the list goes on…

    The Super Aguri case is another recent one and Nick’s Role in its demise well documented.

    I am definitely not paranoid , but Nick’s role in the entire engagement still remains under cloud. And nobody can deny that.

    I have put the same rationale in your article on Cost of One Point, and voiced out, its time for Honda to evaluate their engagment in the Sport.
    The way the HondaF1 operations are run, Honda should just limit their involvement as Engine Supplier(Vendor) and then Nick and Brawn drive the team as per “their agenda”

    To restate what I have stated, it always looked like “Give me Blank cheque” and let me do things my own way kind of relationship. The circumstantial evidences are too overwhelming to brush it off as Paranoia

  13. The Limit said on 5th December 2008, 1:46

    This is the worst possible outcome for this sport, to lose such a major influence as Honda. Personally, I always felt that they were better off supplying existing teams with engines, rather than starting their own team, which isn’t as easy as people think.
    As has been proven at Honda, and Toyota, that the biggest budgets do not always ensure success. My main concern now is that if the Honda F1 Team are dead and buried, what about the others?
    Mercedes, BMW, Renault, even the all conquering Ferrari marks, are they doing well at the moment? More so than Honda, I doubt it?
    On a different note, I wonder how this news will affect the IRL, as their cars are powered solely by Honda. If Honda pulled out of that series too, the IRL would be pretty much out of business.

  14. chris said on 5th December 2008, 1:55

    To be fair if Bernie gets his way with this silly medal system whats the attraction for a team like Honda who based on results from this season would be spending most weekends racing around for nothing?

    I’m sure the guys at the top who are financing Honda’s f1 team wouldnt be that excited about donating valuable resources (in the current financial climate) to produce a net result, which based on this season, would have produced one silver medal.

    I’m worried that more will follow. How much longer can a customer team like williams be competitve when they are clearly suffering financial problems? Will Torro Rosso last much longer before Red Bull decide that its not financially viable to have two teams competing in f1?

    This is a worrying time for f1. Maybe bernie should start prioritising and look more at cost cutting measures and leave things like the points system alone for the time being.

  15. theRoswellite said on 5th December 2008, 2:17

    the tip of the iceberg and all that….

    If you do the “melt-down” scenario, to continue the metaphor, it is difficult to set F1 aside from the general oncoming financial malaise.

    You lose some of the car companies, some of the foreign tracks, throw in a pile of advertising money; and suddenly everything is in the retrenchment mode, all parties needing to offload anything not essential to rolling something, anything, onto the grid.

    Gee….did we just live through the Golden Age, commercially speaking of course, of Formula One?

    Nah, not really, I’m just spinning in place……

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