Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Honda Switch Off Super Aguri's Life Support

The news that F1 fans had been hoping would never come has finally broken: the Super Aguri F1 team have withdrawn from the 2008 World Championship. They will almost certainly not be returning for 2009 or beyond either. Honda have been generously bank-rolling the team for several weeks now, but enough was finally enough and Aguri Suzuki was forced to announce the team's withdrawal this morning. The news that F1 fans had been hoping would never come has finally broken: the Super Aguri F1 team have withdrawn from the 2008 World Championship.

They have effectively been running on life support supplied by Honda for the last few months, but finally Honda have pulled the plug. The writing was on the wall when the potential takeover deal by the DIC funded Magma Group fell through at the last minute. There was a glimmer of hope last week when the German Wiegl Group expressed an interest in funding the team, but that turned out to be yet another false dawn for Aguri Suzuki. The team, who were in debt to Honda to the tune of $100million, were refused entry to the paddock at the Istanbul Autodrome, and they have now decided to call it a day.

It is extremely disappointing news for the F1 world. Firstly, they are one of the most like-able teams around. They have relished their status as plucky underdogs since they entered F1 in the 2006 season, and have thrilled audiences with some great shock performances. For the neutral fan they have been one of the most exciting teams to follow, and they have been most F1 fans' "second team". No fans ever had a bad word to say about the team.

Sadly it wasn't always the case with the rest of the F1 teams as the thorny issue of customer cars (they effectively drove the previous year's Honda) has plagued them for some time. Suzuki himself has stated that the uncertainty over the future of driving customer cars has been one of the reasons they have struggle to find long-term financial backers.

Some have been quick to blame Honda for refusing to offer help to Super Aguri, but that really isn't fair. Honda have done more than what was reasonably to have been expected of them over the last couple of years. They have bailed them out consistently, and have continued to provide them with engines, chassis and technical support despite lack of payment from SA. At the end of the day Honda are running a business, and they can't continue pouring money and resources into a team that is destined not to survive. Sad but true.

So F1 will continue without one of its most popular teams, and without two talented and very well liked drivers in Sato and Davidson. A sad day all round for the sport.

Full statement from Aguri Suzuki...

In order to realise my dream to become an owner of a Formula One Team, I applied for a grid position in the FIA Formula One World Championship in November 2005. Since then, I have participated in the championship for two years and four months as the Super Aguri F1 team, but regretfully I must inform you that the team will be ceasing its racing activities as of today.

The team has competed against the many car manufacturer backed teams and has succeeded in obtaining the first points after only the 22nd race, finishing in ninth place overall in the 2007 Constructors’ Championship.

However, the breach of contract by the promised partner SS United Group Company Limited resulted in the loss of financial backing and immediately put the team into financial difficulties. Also, the change in direction of the environment surrounding the team, in terms of the use of customer chassis, has affected our ability to find partners.

Meanwhile, with the help of Honda, we have somehow managed to keep the team going, but we find it difficult to establish a way to continue the activities in the future within the environment surrounding F1 and as a result, I have concluded to withdraw from the Championship.

I would like to express my deepest thanks to Honda, Bridgestone, the sponsors, all the people who have given us advise during various situations over the past couple of years all the Team Staff who have kept their motivations high and always done their best, Anthony Davidson who has always pushed to the limit despite the very difficult conditions, Takuma Sato who has been with us from the very start and has always fought hard and led the team and lastly our fans from all over the world who have loyally supported the Super Aguri F1 team.