Gary Anderson contends that the scintillating pre-season testing form displayed by Brawn GP – and the fact that the Brackley-based outfit is being widely tipped as favourite for glory in the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne this weekend – only serves to highlight how 'harsh' a decision Honda made in electing to put the team up for sale.
The Japanese manufacturer put its Formula 1 operation on the market back in December, in response to falling car sales precipitated by the current global credit crunch and – perhaps more significantly – poor on-track return for its significant investment in the top flight in recent years, with but a scant 20 points from the last two seasons put together, for a reputed £147 million budget in 2008.
Respected former Jordan and Stewart designer Anderson agrees that something needed to be done to drastically rein in expenditure and regain respectability – but pulling out altogether, he argues, was not the right move, even if the economic downturn has made things 'pretty tight' across the board.
“I think Honda, to be honest, have made some harsh decisions,” he told Crash.net Radio
. “They would have been better, in my opinion, to have cut back a bit and tried to use these new regulations to take a step forward – but they made their decision and that's it.
“When you look at people like Honda and Toyota and the amount of money they've lost, how they survive whilst spending another $300 million on Formula 1 is difficult to know. It is a marketing tool, though, and they look to see if their marketing tool can do anything for them – as with any sponsorship. Where do you spend that will give you the best bang for your buck? Obviously they still believe that Formula 1 is reasonably good at that.
“The economy is definitely a struggle, and Formula 1 needs to react to it – not necessarily just because of the economy and the slap on the back of the head it's got with a cricket bat, but the fact that it had got stupid before anyway as far as spending was concerned.
“There are ways of reducing the spend. They're talking about having £30 million budgets. I don't think they'll ever get down to that, but you could genuinely reduce the budgets by half without even seeing it. Controlling budgets or controlling people's spending from the FIA point-of-view is nigh-on impossible to do; I've been inside the sport, and I know how you can fiddle with all these sorts of things.
“I think they just have to start looking at it logically in terms of the components going on the car and controlling how many components are going on the car – but you can do that very, very easily and stop the waste. The waste has been getting stupid in Formula 1, and it doesn't have to be there.”
Brawn GP certainly seems to be performing miracles so far on a budget that surely pales in comparison with what Honda was spending on its F1 endeavours, and the sport's leading figures like Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner believe the testing pace is 'absolutely genuine' [see separate story – click here