BMW is expected to announce later today that it is quitting Formula 1, according to Autosport.
The site claims the German manufacturer will confirm the news at a press conference this afternoon attended by, among others, BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen.
Update: It’s official – more in the comments.
If true, the revelation would mimic the suddenness of Honda’s departure in December last year.
It would also bring to an end a decade of continuous involvement in F1 by BMW since returning to the support as an engine supplier to Williams in 2000.
It left Williams and took over Sauber in 2006 to form its own team. The company has poured significant investment into the sport, especially on its computational fluid dynamics supercomputer Albert II.
Struggling in 2009
Until this year, BMW’s F1 participation was a model of consistent progress towards success. It was second in the 2007 constructors’ championship (thanks in part to McLaren’s disqualification) and scored a breakthrough one-two in the Canadian Grand Prix last year.
The team has struggled enormously this year. Having been the only team supporting Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems as the season began, it quickly dropped the technology as the F1.09 struggled. Development work on the car has been slow – it was one of the last to adopt the double diffuser.
There have also been problems on the comercial side of its activities – the team lost its Credit Suisse sponsorship this year owing to the company’s credit crunch losses. It has not been able to find a replacement of similar value.
BMW’s involvement in motor racing extends far beyond Formula 1. It runs the Formula BMW junior single seater champioship which unearthed such talent as Sebastian Vettel, and spawned an F1-supporting European class last year.
Its World Touring Car Championship team won four consecutives drivers titles with Andy Priaulx from 2004 to 2007 (the first as the European series). But the team has criticised the FIA’s governance of the championship which it feels has allowed the diesel-powered Seat cars unfair advantages.
It remains to be seen if the pull-out will be confirmed and how much of its motor racing portfolio will be affected.
It would also have an effect on the drivers’ market, with Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld suddenly up for grabs.
BMW have been supportive of the Formula 1 Teams’ Association but their withdrawal would surely be seen by Max Mosley as a vindication of his claims that further manufacturer pull-outs are possible.
More worryingly, BMW were not among the teams thought most likely to withdraw, which has usually included Renault and Toyota. It may prove too late for the teams that submitted entries for 2010 but were not accepted – such as Prodrive, Lola and N. Technology – to take their place.
Read more: BMW F1 team information