Thursday, October 29, 2009

Farewell BMW...Someone May Join You Shortly!

After the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, Mario Theissen will roll in his mattress and pack up his BMW unit and bid adieu to Formula 1. And if the recent uncertainty over Toyota’s future in the sport gathers surety of its exit, it will mean that three major manufacturers, over the period of one year, would have departed (Honda made its exit last year).

Honda is Brawn GP today and a successful one at that. And all the 2010 entrants, confirmed or otherwise, are, as the terminology in the bits-and-bytes world suggests, “assembled”. Ferrari has been the only sole independent unit operating with considerable success since the inception of the sport.

That leaves us with Renault in the current line up. Renault has been plummeting like the GDP of a country in the recent economic climate. The recession started in 2007 and Renault simultaneously ceased any inclinations in winning championships since then. This year “Crashgate” knocked on their doors, ING ditched them as a sponsor, Flavio Briatore has been banned and Fernando Alonso has got a greener pasture in a scarlet car.

The fact is the works team of a car manufacturer has not had a great long term relationship in the realms of the sport. Ferrari is an exception though. Renault is also an exception albeit to a certain extent. Renault's history as engine suppliers has been of note. Unlike Ford for instance. Both Ford and Renault were only engine suppliers in the 90’s. Renault took over Benetton and won two titles. Ford on the other hand took over Stewart GP via Jaguar and faded away.

Joe Saward totes up on his blog, "The decision made to quit F1 immediately underlines the fundamental reality that no automobile manufacturer can be trusted to abide by any commitments made in the sport, as it is a sideshow and if their core business requires a change of direction they will walk away at the drop of a hat."

BMW had one win in four years, Toyota could not match that in eight years and Renaults return to Formula 1 in 2002 (they took over the Benetton team) was after an absence for a period of sixteen years. Renault, however, did accumulate copious amounts of success within the period as engine suppliers. Honda had three wins in eight years, two of which came in the sixties.

The most viable option for any road car manufacturer is as an engine supplier. Renault has done that in the past. And Toyota can consider that as an option. BMW and Honda have had better track records as engine suppliers. BMW’s success on the track with Williams in the early part of this decade is a testament to the engines in the McLaren F1.

Some other teams that whooshed by were: Lamborghini in 1991 (six races, no points), Alfa Romeo with eleven seasons (no victories in its last nine, six seasons in the eighties and marked present a few times in the fifties, sixties and seventies), Porsche also ran in the fifties and sixties with a solitary victory in its eight seasons and finally an Aston Martin with five races five decades ago.

So expect Toyota to follow suit and Renault to take another sabbatical in a few years.

BMW F1-247

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