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The Possible Repercussions Of Honda’s Total Withdrawal From Formula One

The Possible Repercussions Of Honda’s Total Withdrawal From Formula One

With Honda looking increasingly likely to issue a statement in the early hours of the morning, essentially withdrawing themselves from Formula One unless a buyer is found or a deal brokered, what would happen to the grid for the 2009 season? Is it as easy as saying there will be nine teams and eighteen drivers, or are there further complications that could cause the sport more grief during this troubled time of economic imbalance and insecurity?

It is understood that Bernie Ecclestone requires there to be ten teams and twenty drivers in each grand prix – this is apparently the minimum requirement set in place by presumably the man himself. However, should Honda fail to find a buyer before March 2009, the grid could see only nine teams, thus breaking Bernie’s golden rule.

In this case, it has been rumoured that some teams may be required to field three cars, and in this particular case, two teams would have to run an extra driver to make up the loss of the two drivers from Honda. How it is decided who gets to run a third car is unknown to me, and their status in the driver’s championship and their contribution to the constructor’s championship are also unknown to me and many others. However, it is likely the teams with the most comfortable financial position and with the appropriate levels of staff would have to prepare and race a third chassis. So Ferrari and McLaren, then. Possibly Red Bull if Dietrich Mateschitz was feeling generous.

The loss of a Japanese team could also be disastrous for the Japanese Grand Prix. Although Honda have only been competing again since 2006 (they competed in the 1960’s previously), they have become synonymous with Formula One through their success as an engine supplier to McLaren and Williams during many spectacular campaigns. Japan has a strong fanbase, but they also have/had two teams (Toyota being the second) and for a little while in 2008, Japan also fielded two drivers; Takuma Sato in the junior Honda, Super Aguri, and Kazuki Nakajima for the Williams-Toyota team.

Takuma Sato is oddly enough on the verge of a third comeback (this time potentially with Scuderia Toro Rosso), and Kazuki Nakajima has already signed another year onto his Williams contract. But losing Honda will be a bitter pill for the fans to swallow. The team is much loved despite their less-than-spectacular results, and Jenson Button is adored the world over as the handsome British gentleman that I’m sure he is. Although Honda are based in Britain and have employed two British drivers in their history – Anthony Davidson as a long term test driver and Super Aguri pilot – the Japanese fans seem to love this aspect of the team culture. Losing Honda may lose the faith of a lot of fans.

What about Honda’s chief rival, Toyota? Earlier in the year the team was almost given its marching orders, the automotive giant instead deciding to offer an ultimatum of sorts; buck up and get results, or the plug is pulled. Thankfully for the Cologne-based team, Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock did quite well with the TF108 and improved their position in the standings from 2007. However, Honda left American racing when they could no longer race against Toyota – the rivalry and competition is just as important to the overall brand image than the actual participation. Without Honda, will Toyota decide it is time to start saving a few coins?

And lastly, there are serious repercussions on those people who are possibly, if not already, facing redundancy. Three weeks prior to Christmas for many of the team’s employees and their families, and instead of kicking back with a beer, they are mailing out CVs to other Formula One teams. Possibly upheaving their entire lives just to remain a part of what should be a glorious celebration of skill, bravery, craftsmanship and honour. For those at Brackley I feel.

I said in the comments on the previous post that Bernie Ecclestone should be kicking himself right now, and I stand by those words. For too long the sport has relied on manufacturers to make up the numbers, provide some vitality to the sport and keep the money rolling. But of course, the narrow-mindedness of those who are apparently in control have allowed the sport to potentially initiate a self-destruct sequence.

When I first mentioned those two words, self destruct, back in April, some thought I was being too pessimistic. And although the situation was different (it related to customer chassis), the over-riding feeling was that of the governance of the sport not being shrewd enough to look beyond the end of their nose, let alone a few months into the future.

I sincerely hope Honda can find a way out of this. I sincerely hope this is not the beginning of a snowball. But I feel it should be repeated…

…Formula One’s self destruct sequence has may have been initiated.

Image Copyright © HondaF1.

Oliver White

14 comments

  • Looking at the long-term picture, I think this is the first step in what could be a disaster in the making if Bernie and Max do not serious re-consider their recent policies towards the teams. For starters, I have little doubt that the much-hated standard engine rule being pushed by Max may have bene the last straw for Honda- all the teams appear to hate it. Max is correct in that the teams need to save money, but if he wants to keep them racing, perhaps he should listen to them and cooperate on cost-saving ideas that work, such as the Force India/McLaren deal, among other things.

    On Bernie’s end, Honda was 100% correct to be furious at Mr. E for the complete demolition of the North American presence on the calendar. Like it or not, the teams and sponsors want to race here, even if it is just for commercial motives. Bernie’s long line of bad comments, such as before the demise of Indy and after the demise of Montreal, are probably not what Honda had in mind when they signed on to race in F1.

    While I doubt we will see a mass exodus of teams anyitme soon, it is very possible that unless the teams and corporate backers feel they are getting the best value for their dollar in all aspects, several more could pull out in the near future.

  • Where to start is a difficult one, but I can’t see teams agreeing to run a 3rd car. I think that would fly in the face of cost cutting. The car manufacturers are stressed as it is and what about the other teams. Williams, Toro Rosso rely on sponsorship and their sponsors are having financial issues themselves. A third car doesn’t seem viable to me.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Toyota announce a pullout. Honda may just be the excuse they need. I have to say however that just can’t get rid of the thought that neither Honda or Toyota have a responsible business model for F1. The teams are far too big and spend far too much money for little or no results.

    I certainly believe the lack of a North American presence was a factor in Honda’s decision and my lack of faith in Bernie has been compounded because of this. He turned his back on Montreal and growled when told his demands were unreasonable while not viewing the whole picture clearly.

  • According to the Guardian, Max is saying that costs need to be cut by 80%

    “We need to have a radical revision of the whole thing and we’ve got to get the cost down,” he said. “Not by 10-20% but down to 10-20% of what they are now, or in that region.”

    Mosley foresees old-style entrepreneurs getting back into the sport if teams agree to operate on a budget of £30-40m, making the sport less dependent on subsidies or sponsors, and he believes a standardised engine would also help.

  • If Honda don’t find a buyer, two teams will have to run a third car. Due to the contractual obligations which CVC have with the circuits, they have to provide 20 cars. Everyone except the FIA is still acting as if the Concorde Agreement still applies, and since the FIA gets to levy massive fines if the teams don’t provide enough third cars to bridge the gap, I can’t see them conveniently declining to apply that particular point, even if it is inconsistent with how they’ve handled matters thus far.

    The teams are free to decide which of their number provides the cars in whatever way they see fit, as long as they tell the FIA what’s happening via the standard race entry document. Unless the Concorde Agreement has a more precise and restrictive method.

  • Jamie, I’d love to think so, but I think David Richards was put off by the FIA flip-flopping over customer cars. Unless he thinks that Max Mosley is finally prepared to make his mind up on the regulations, I think David Richards will not be Honda’s knight in shining armour. Pity, because it went pretty well when he led it, on the quiet…

    According to Paul Stoddart last time this plan was mooted, the third cars would not be eligable for points, and therefore would have no direct influence on the championships. However, this would not preclude some sneaky team orders being played out. And I think the FIA would be in favour, if only because they could selectively apply the Concorde Agreement and levy a heavy penalty on the teams if they don’t come up with the cars…

  • Simple solution.

    1. Proper distribution of TV money

    2. 1.5 L Turbo engines Last 3 – 4 races.

    2A Possible standard transmission if really necessary.

    3. Slicks

    4. If limits to aero are REALLY necessary then rather than the

    dismal large front wing narrow rear which makes the F1 car look

    badly drawn, take out winglets leave barge boards.

    5. Bring back ATLEAST 2 competitive tires…you will see passing

    believe u me.

    6. Restricted testing further but not to dilute it completely.

    7. Restricted aero work on the car.

    end. and problem totally solved.

  • Who is going to finance long life turbo engines? Where is the money coming from?

    There are two reasons why overtaking is far too difficult and it is easy to find those causes. You just follow the history of the sport and find out when the overtaking stopped.

    The first is aero. As soon as cars became dependent on aero grip from their front wing at the end of the 70s they couldn’t follow another car through a corner and therefore couldn’t pass it on the following straight. Unless aero goes back to mid 70s levels we won’t get much overtaking.

    The second is circuit design. Circuits over the decades have become progressively tighter and the number of corners per mile has gone up. Add in chicanes every time there is a straight and you couldn’t overtake even if the cars were capable. Tyrrell in their latter years gave Autosport some info from some analysis they had based their new car on. The outstanding fact was that their analysis of all the tracks on that year’s championship suggested that for optimum performance they should design their car for second gear corners. Grand Prix motor racing should not be based on second gear corners.

    The answer to overtaking is simple.

    Much reduced aero. No downforce generating elements other than the front and rear wings. The wings should be single element with the same profile across its width. So no spoons or swoops etc.

    Fewer corners or longer circuits with the same number of corners. It is not for nothing that Spa and Suzuka are universally revered. They are the longest circuits on the calendar. Valencia has the highest number of corners on a ‘short’ track.

  • yeah and what do you call when Rubens lapped the entire field when he was on a Bridgestone shot ferrari in damn weather where michelins where poor.

    its called overtaking.

    Who is going to finance a 1.5L T engine…you mean like Renault in the 70`s with a muuuuuuch smaller budget by todays standard….

    How they make sports cars with turbos they can make an engine for 3 races trust me.

  • you mean like Renault in the 70`s with a muuuuuuch smaller budget by todays standard….

    I would estimate that Renault’s budget hasn’t increased at the same rate as other teams (or the general rate of increase over the years). Renault are considered the small-spenders of Formula One, which is why their ’05 and ’06 championships were even more impressive. And don’t forget, while budgets have increased, so have costs. And it was the same back when turbos were used as well.

  • The point I was making Gorgonzola is if they are trying to cut budgets the last thing they need is a brand new engine formula that would mean the teams designing a new engine from scratch with no contemporary data.

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