Formula One is bracing itself for an announcement by the Honda Racing team on Friday morning that could pave the way for one of grand prix racing's biggest names to exit the sport.
Amid the worldwide financial downturn and the impact that has had on Honda's car sales, it is understood that the Brackley-based team's future is now in serious doubt.
Insiders have told autosport.com that the team's senior staff were called for a meeting at the factory on Thursday afternoon and informed that Honda in Japan were no longer willing to bankroll the outfit.
It is suggested that the team will be put up for sale - and if no buyer is found by March then the manufacturer will simply pull the plug and withdraw from the sport.
Amid the current financial climate, it is unclear where Honda Racing would hope to find a buyer willing to support a Formula One team - with budgets already in excess of £100 million per year.
There are suggestions, however, that Honda may be willing to offload the team free of charge to anyone willing to support it - and they could even continue to supply engines for a period of time until another technical partner is found.
However, sources have suggested that team principal Ross Brawn is already eyeing a tie-up with Ferrari for power-units should a buyer be found - with the Italian manufacturer having spare capacity now after ending their deal with Force India.
It is understood that Brawn and F1 CEO Nick Fry are scheduled to fly to meetings in Tokyo on Monday to discuss the future of the team with Japanese bosses - and especially define what happens if no buyer is found.
Honda Racing remained silent about the speculation on Thursday evening, with neither press officers nor senior team personnel available for comment. It is understood the staff informed of the decision were told not to discuss the matter prior to an official announcement being made.
It is expected Honda will issue a press release early on Friday morning revealing their plans. It comes after a challenging year for the team, which had begun a rebuilding process under the leadership of Brawn.
Any pullout by Honda Racing will send shockwaves through F1, and cast question marks over the future of other manufacturers' longterm participation. It would also come several months after FIA president Max Mosley warned that the sport was unsustainable at the moment because of the high costs needed to compete.
It would also mean the grid being reduced to just 18 cars, and would leave drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello without seats.
temasek go buy and put singapore on the f1 race map.
Honda have announced their immediate withdrawal from Formula One, the Japanese manufacturer's president and CEO Takeo Fukui confirmed on Friday morning.
After a night of frenzied speculation about the future of the Honda Racing team, Fukui told a hastily called press conference in Tokyo that difficult financial conditions had forced the company to make the decision.
"Honda must protect its core business activities and secure the long term as widespread uncertainties in the economies around the globe continue to mount," he said. "A recovery is expected to take some time.
"Under these circumstances, Honda has taken swift and flexible measures to counter this sudden and expansive weakening of the marketplace in all business areas. However, in recognition of the need to optimize the allocation of management resources, including investment regarding the future, we have decided to withdraw from Formula One participation.
“We will enter into consultation with the associates of Honda Racing F1 Team and its engine supplier Honda Racing Development regarding the future of the two companies. This will include offering the team for sale."
Autosport.com understands that Honda Racing team principal Ross Brawn and CEO Nick Fry are due to fly to Tokyo on Monday for talks with the Japanese chiefs about the future.
Sources suggest that Honda chiefs have been told that the team will be funded only until March - giving them three months to find a new buyer before they are shut down.
It is understood staff have been told that potential buyers have already been lined up, with Brawn already focused on securing an engine supply deal with Ferrari to try and keep the team in F1.
Fukui admitted that the withdrawal decision had been a hard one to take - especially as Honda had taken a victory as a car maker in 2006 and had already invested a huge amount of money in bidding to return to the top under the leadership of Brawn.
He added: “In its third era of Formula One activities, Honda has been participating in Formula One races from the 2000 season, initially with BAR, by adopting a new format of jointly developing racing machines. Subsequently, in a move to meet the changing environment surrounding Formula One, we switched to running a 100% Honda-owned team commencing with the 2006 season.
“Surmounting many challenges, the Honda Team achieved a grand prix victory in 2006, enabling Honda to receive overwhelming support from Honda fans around the world that were looking forward to greater success.
“It, therefore, has been an extremely difficult decision for us to come to this conclusion without having been able to fully meet the expectations of our fans.
“By making the best of what we have learned during these times of economic turmoil, coupled with the spirit of challenge gained through active participation in racing, we intend to continue with our commitment in meeting new challenges.
“Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank our fans and all those who have supported Honda's Formula One efforts, including everyone in the world of Formula One."
wow, they must be very hurt financially to pull out. Its a big ego thing for the japanese...
They will be back i am sure.
Ross Brawn back to ferrari?
Barrichello, Senna, Button and Di Grassi will have to find a seat elsewhere (or join the queue at Toro Rosso) if there's no buyout before the new season begins.
ask proton join the race la.
Originally posted by dragg:
temasek go buy and put singapore on the f1 race map.
Then after every F1 race when the team always finishes last, the spokesperson will say the investment is for the long term.