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July 30, 2009

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BMW puts the brakes on F1

FORMULA One's governing body expressed regret but no surprise at BMW's shocking exit from the sport yesterday and hoped cost-cutting measures would prevent more departures.

The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA), which groups the four other manufacturers in the sport, said it was prepared to help its former rivals survive under new ownership.

Toyota, whose future has been the source of much speculation after Honda pulled out in December, said it remained committed.

"It has been clear for some time that motorsport cannot ignore the world economic crisis," the International Automobile Federation (FIA) said after BMW announced it would pull out at the end of 2009 as a team and engine supplier.

"Car manufacturers cannot be expected to continue to pour large sums of money into Formula One when its survival depends on redundancies, plant closures and the support of the taxpayer," it added.

The FIA said BMW's departure might have been avoided had some teams not put up resistance to regulations aimed at cutting costs.

"Nevertheless, as a result of a sustained cost-cutting campaign by the FIA, new measures are in the process of being agreed which should make it easier for new teams to enter and enable existing ones to participate on much reduced budgets," said the governing body. "It is no secret that these measures do not go as far as the FIA would have liked but a compromise was needed in the interests of harmony in the sport. Hopefully it will be enough to prevent further withdrawals and provide a solid foundation for Formula One."

Concorde deal

BMW's exit came just as the teams, FIA and the commercial rights holders were preparing to sign a new 'Concorde' agreement binding them to the sport until at least the end of 2012.

The carmaker's decision followed Honda, which quit for financial reasons. Its team was resurrected as Brawn GP, now leading the championship with Mercedes engines.

BMW decided in mid-2005 that supplying engines to former champions Williams was not enough and bought a majority stake in Swiss-based Sauber, renaming the team BMW-Sauber. It won its first race last season when Poland's Robert Kubica triumphed in Canada, and challenged for both titles. This season it has scored just eight points in 10 races and is eighth overall.

"It only took us three years to establish ourselves as a top team ... unfortunately, we were unable to meet expectations in the current season," said Klaus Draeger, board member for development.

The team's poor showing at the Hungarian Grand Prix was its third race in a row without a point scored.


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