Honda pull out of 2009 competition

Budget cuts in Japan as recession bites leave Button in search of F1 drive

Honda yesterday became the first Formula One team to fall victim to the global recession. Staff were called into the factory for a meeting late in the day in which team principals Ross Brawn and Nick Fry announced that the team would not compete under the Honda Racing name in the 2009 Formula One world championship.

Suspicions had been aroused earlier in the week when an annual media lunch at the opulent Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons near Oxford was cancelled at less than 36 hours' notice.

Brawn and Fry told the stunned staff that there was only sufficient budget from the Honda factory in Tokyo to continue to operate for another three months. In that time the production of the new car that should have been raced next year by Britain's Jenson Button will be completed and he is expected to test it as if everything was normal. The medium-term plan is to find a buyer in that period of grace who will carry on the team under a different name. This is likely to be an extremely difficult task, given the worldwide difficulties created by the current economic climate.

The news has rocked Formula One circles. Honda appeared to be recession-proof, but only recently they lost 32 per cent of their sales in the vital American market. That sounded all the alarm bells in Tokyo, where the decision to withdraw was quickly taken. Official confirmation of that is expected this morning.

There are serious concerns that other manufacturers may be obliged to follow suit. Toyota spend more than $400m (£275m) per season and have yet to score a victory. They too have suffered serious sales losses, of 34 per cent, in the US market, and may feel that a similar strategy is necessary. Even before the recession, there were rumours that the company might hand over their costly operation to the Williams team, who use their engines. This could still happen, cutting Toyota's costs but enabling it to keep a toe in the Formula One water.

The Honda founder Soichiro Honda had racing in his blood and, having raced cars himself in the Twenties and Thirties, took his company into postwar motorcycle racing first, then into cars. Honda first entered Formula One in 1964 and scored their first victory with Richie Ginther in Mexico City in the final race of the 1.5-litre Formula One in 1965. John Surtees earned their second win in the 1967 Italian Grand Prix at Monza in the second year of the 3-litre formula that followed, but at the end of 1968 Honda were obliged to pull out for the first time to focus engineering development on meeting tough new emission control legislation that affected their road cars.

They came back officially in 1984 with the Williams team after backing Spirit Racing in 1983. Keke Rosberg scored their first victory in Dallas in 1984, and further victories followed for Rosberg and an emergent Nigel Mansell in 1985. In 1986 Mansell fought for the world championship with new team-mate Nelson Piquet; though Alain Prost won the drivers' title for McLaren, Williams-Honda won the constructors. The following year they repeated the achievement, as Piquet won the drivers' crown.

A switch to McLaren in 1988 saw Honda dominate through until 1991, with Ayrton Senna scoring all three of his world championships at the wheel of a McLaren-Honda, and Prost his third title.

Williams fought back with Mansell and Renault power in 1992, and Honda withdrew for the second time at the end of that season. They came back a third time in 1999 with the new BAR team, having decided against running their own operation. BAR became Honda at the end of 2005, but this was their least successful period, with Button's maiden victory in the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix proving the one high point, though BAR-Honda had finished second to Ferrari in the 2004 constructors' championship.

Button, who was on a lucrative long-term contract with the team, is unlikely to find a top drive at this late stage, but will undoubtedly be of interest to the Toro Rosso team as they seek to replace the Italian GP winner Sebastian Vettel, who has moved to Red Bull.

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?