So Honda have withdrawn from Formula One. Wow. the credit crunch has bit hard on the world's most glamorous sport. That a car manufacturer should decide to leave a luxury sport in a time of economic down turn is not surprising. What is surprising is the timing of the announcement. Honda were said to be close to having a much improved 2009 and, under Ross Brawn, had tested next year's car in Barcelona in recent weeks.
There are still hopes that a buyer can be found for the team, particularly since the car giant are expected to be willing to take a nominal fee to shift the team from it's books. Yet in such a recession, who in their right mind would be willing to take on a team that has an annual operating budget of almost $500m??
I've been following Formula One for over fifteen years. My earliest memories are of private racing teams winning Grands Prix (Ferrari aside). Williams were the dominant team then, today they are small. This is due to the advancement into the sport of giant car manufacturers. They viewed F1 as an expensive advertisement for the superiority of their cars. Yet now, when the cash runs tight, F1 could be the first thing they drop.
I have it on good authority that there are three more teams in danger of dropping out of the sport in the short-to-mid term. That turns the sport into a farce. Who would watch 12 cars race for two hours?
The problem is not just that teams are pulling out, but that it is impossible for teams to join. Eddie Jordan started Jordan F1 and scored points the first time his cars went to the grid. That could not happen today due to the exponential increase in spending that the sport has seen. And now the cash has dried up, so that money is even more difficult to come by. It is a vicious circle. I do not see a way out. The 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix may yet turn out to be the sport's grand farewell...