BMW Sauber confirm they are to withdraw from Formula One at the end of the 2009 season.
End of the road for BMW Sauber team
BMW Sauber today confirmed they are to withdraw from Formula One at the end of the 2009 season. The announcement, made at the team's headquarters in Munich and on their website, means BMW are the second major manufacturer to pull out of the sport in the space of eight months following Honda's withdrawal in December. The news comes ahead of the imminent signing this week of a new Concorde Agreement, the commercial document that governs F1 and binds the teams to the sport for the length of the contract. BMW made their decision after a management board meeting yesterday. "Of course, this was a difficult decision for us, but it's a resolute step in view of our company's strategic realignment," said Dr Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the Board of Management of BMW. "Premium will be increasingly defined in terms of sustainability and environmental compatibility. This is an area in which we want to remain in the lead. "We are continually reviewing all projects and initiatives to check them for future viability and sustainability. "Our Formula One campaign is thus less a key promoter for us." BMW had made rapid strides in F1 since taking over Sauber ahead of the 2006 season, scoring two podium finishes and claiming fifth in the constructors' championship that year. In 2007, the team finished second in the constructors', aided by McLaren's exclusion in the wake of the 'spy saga', amassing 101 points. Then last season Robert Kubica scored BMW Sauber's first victory at the Canadian Grand Prix en route to the team taking 135 points and finishing behind Ferrari and McLaren in the constructors' table. At the start of the season, BMW Motorsport boss, Mario Theissen, insisted it was the team's intention to push for both titles. But the team have been a major disappointment after failing to get to grips with the introduction of new regulations, taking just eight points from 10 grands prix to date. BMW's issues have been compounded by the fact that despite Ferrari and McLaren making similarly slow starts, those two teams are back up to speed, leaving the German marque at the back of the grid. "Mario Theissen has been in charge of our motorsport's programme since 1999," added Dr Reithofer. "We have scored a large number of successes in this period, including some in Formula One racing. "I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mario and his team for this." BMW's withdrawal is a major surprise as they have been a pivotal player in the recent negotiations between the FIA and the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) to reduce costs in the sport. The signing of the new Concorde had been viewed as the end of the saga, with the 13 teams that were due to compete likely to do so through to at least 2012. But BMW are to now focus the resources to be saved on F1 into the development of new drive technologies and sustainability. Dr Klaus Draeger, a member of the Board of Management responsible for development, confirmed BMW Sauber's recent poor results had played a major part in the thinking behind the team's exit from F1. "It only took us three years to establish ourselves as a top team in Formula One," said Dr Draeger. "Unfortunately, we were unable to meet expectations. Nevertheless, our 10 years of Formula One experience have had a major impact on our development engineers. "We have racing to thank for numerous technological innovations, as well as the competitive spirit that drives us to develop mass-produced cars." It is certain redundancies will follow, both in Munich and at their other plant in Hinwil, Switzerland. Dr Draeger added: "We will develop and assess various scenarios and do our best to find a solution for the employees in Hinwil and the staff members involved in the Formula One project in Munich. "We are aware of the responsibility we shoulder and will inform the staff as soon as we can make a clear statement." Theissen was fully appreciative of the executive decision made to end the team's involvement in F1. "We would all have liked to continue this ambitious campaign and show that this season was just a hiccup following three successful years," said Theissen. "But I can understand why this decision was made from a corporate perspective. "We will now focus sharply on the remaining races, demonstrate our fighting spirit and put in a good result as we bid farewell to Formula One racing." BMW will continue its participation in the World Touring Car Championship, Formula BMW, the American Le Mans Series and other endurance races, as well as world super bikes. As for drivers Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, they will now be on the lookout for another team for next season.