Barely eight months after Honda called it quits, another manufacturer of white cars is out of Formula One as BMW throws in the towel at the end of this season. What will this mean for the all-conquering Brawn GP?
It was a late March day in Melbourne and Robert Kubica was breathing down hard on Jenson Button’s neck in this season’s first grand prix. Leading the race with three laps to go, Button was slowing down in his yet-unproven ex-Honda on supersoft tires as Kubica crept ever closer in his BMW. The young Pole—like Button, a winner of a single grand prix—was at last set to launch into a season of victories.
Of course he then tangled up with Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull and it was all downhill for both him and BMW. Button and Vettel would go on to win 8 of this year’s 10 grands prix, while Kubica’s best result was 7th in Turkey. Apart from a lucky second place for teammate Nick Heidfeld in the wacky red-flagged Malaysian monsoon race, the BMW team—in their fourth season as a factory team in F1—are permanent backmarkers in the 2009 season, bringing up the rear with Force India and Toro Rosso.
They have decided to put themselves out of their misery. BMW will go out fighting but not come back to contest the 2010 season.
“This was a difficult decision for us, but it’s a resolute step in view of our company’s strategic realignment,” was the jolt of corporatese offered by Dr. Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the board of management of BMW, to the BBC.
Team principal Mario Theissen had this to say:
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.
Launched as a factory team for the 2006 season, BMW had originally given themselves three years to win the world championship. They finished second in 2007 after McLaren was disqualified and came in third last year—second only to McLaren and Ferrari—with several podium finishes and a grand prix victory by Robert Kubica in Montreal, his and BMW’s only.
One cannot help but wonder if the Bavarian-Swiss squad will try to make lemonade of the situation the way Ross Brawn has.
Brawn’s Honda team suffered through an ignominious 2008 season at the end of which Honda decided to quit Formula One altogether. Over the winter, Brawn managed to acquire the team’s assets and drivers from Honda, launched it under his own name with the car they had been developing since November 2007 and went on to win 6 of this season’s 10 grand prix with Jenson Button. After 10 out of 17 races, Brawn GP leads both the driver’s and the constructor’s championship.
So let’s keep our fingers crossed for Mario Theissen and his mercurial Pole. Formula One cannot make do without such a well-groomed mustache as Theissen’s:
Source: BBC. Photo Credit: BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images, DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images, Paul Gilham/Getty Images, OLIVER LANG/AFP/Getty Images