The shock decision made by the BMW board that the Formula One operation would be withdrawn from the championship from 2010 onwards has sent further shockwaves through the sport, following on from Honda’s withdrawal late last year. The news comes after a disappointing season for the Hinwil squad, and will have ramifications on the driver market as Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica become available for next year.
BMW had proven to be a successful manufacturer in Formula One, returning to the sport in 2000 as an engine supplier to Williams. When the relationship with the Grove-based team soured after ten wins and numerous podium finishes, the manufacturer bought the Sauber outfit and pursued the sport as a team. The Swiss-German operation had followed a plan and with each passing year since 2006, the squad improved and found increasing success.
In their first year as a team, BMW finished in fifth place in the constructors and claimed a podium in Hungary with Nick Heidfeld, and again in Italy thanks to newcomer Robert Kubica. The following season only saw two podiums, but their points tally almost tripled and after McLaren were disqualified, the team improved to second place in the constructors. Last year, BMW once again scored more points than previously accrued, but the reintroduction of McLaren to the championship meant the squad finished in third. A maiden victory in Canada for Kubica and the team was the highlight of the year.
Due to various rule changes for 2009, some teams have done very well this year while others have failed to keep their momentum going. McLaren, Ferrari and BMW have all been usurped by Brawn and Red Bull Racing, and while Ferrari and McLaren have slowly regained their form, BMW have continued to fall backwards.
So far this year, BMW have scored only eight points, most of which came from the rain-interrupted Malaysian Grand Prix. Much criticism has been thrown BMW’s way and while the squad have been trying to sort out the F1.09, it simply hasn’t improved in proportion to their rivals. Along with continued troubles in the economy, BMW have decided to pull the plug.
Of course, we, the employees in Hinwil and Munich, would all have liked to continue this ambitious campaign and show that this season was just a hiccup following three successful years. But I can understand why this decision was made from a corporate perspective. We will now focus sharply on the remaining races and demonstrate our fighting spirit and put in a good result as we bid farewell to Formula 1 racing. Mario Theissen.
It is not yet known if the squad will be put up for sale or if BMW will simply shut the factory down. Epsilon Euskadi have expressed interest in taking over the squad, but little more is known. Of course, as with Honda, it would be preferable for another company to take over the team, ensuring the continuation of the team and the employment of all the staff at Hinwil.
We are still working on the project, at a much slower rate obviously because we don’t have the security [2010 entry].
What we can say is that the people who were interested in helping us are still interested, which is something incredible. And if the opportunity arises, we are going to attack it, there’s no doubts about it. Joan Villadelprat, Epsilon Boss.
FOTA have stated that they will do there best to ensure the team continues in some shape or form, and the association were very helpful to Ross Brawn and Nick Fry when they decided to buy-out Honda.
This news came as a shock to both BMW pilots, and Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica will now have to find alternative drives for next season if they wish to remain in Formula One. Both drivers are talented and are highly rated. Heidfeld has outscored Kubica in one of the two full season they have been partners at BMW, and this year he is leading the Polish pilot in the championship. However, Kubica is a recognised talent and one to watch in the future. Robert has been linked with Ferrari in the past, and recent circumstances at the Maranello team have brought these rumours to the surface again.
Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, Kubica’s manager Daniele Morelli had the following to say:
Robert was under contract until the end of 2010, but now he’s officially on the market. Daniele Morelli, Kubica’s Manager.
One can only presume Nick Heidfeld will make a similar decision, but where the two will end up is anyone’s guess.
Image © BMW AG.