It seems that the November sales figures arrived on Fukui’s desk on Thursday and were far worse than expected. Against that backdrop Fukui took the decision. Interestingly Honda had held a press conference on Thursday to announce a new car and he made no mention of F1 then. When quizzed about this after the withdrawl announcement on Friday morning Fukui said that it had been a sudden decision.
Fukui is a big supporter of F1 and has attended many races, taking a direct personal involvement in the team and with the drivers. This is a massive blow to Honda’s self esteem as racing is a fundamental part of the DNA of the company and the F1 programme is the proving ground of its most talented engineers, who then move on to road car operations.
The entire team was addressed by team principal Ross Brawn at 6pm Thursday evening and he explained the situation to the workforce. Also on Thursday there was a FOTA meeting in London and the other teams were informed.
Honda has its car factories in Japan working part time shifts, owing to the collapse in the automobile sales market and clearly the management feel that they can no longer justify spending up to £150 million a year on F1, even if cost cutting measures are in the pipeline. Too much time has been wasted in agreeing a package of cost saving measures – as the FIA and also the Williams management have been warning for months. They are entitled now to say “I told you so”, but will take no pleasure from doing so.