Bernie Ecclestone has suggested that Honda could not see the potential for going from whipping boy to race winner in the space of a matter of months following Brawn GP's stellar start to the new Formula One season.
The Japanese marque sent shockwaves through the sport in December, when it announced that it was withdrawing its entry with immediate effect. The decision came on the back of two years of under-performing, exacerbated by the suggestion that it was spending more than anyone else in F1, and coincided with the global economic downturn.
Weeks of uncertainty followed as various potential buyers were linked to the remains of the team, which were made available for a nominal sum provided guarantees could be given over its future, before former employees Ross Brawn and Nick Fry picked up the reins. The phoenix from the flames act was completed when the BGP001 immediately topped the timesheets in testing - and then went on to win the opening two races of 2009, having benefited from the longest gestation period of any car in the pit-lane.
Ecclestone now believes that Honda may come to regret its decision to quit, as the chance to add to its paltry single F1 win - with Jenson Button in Hungary in 2006 - passes Brawn GP.
“They'd spent an awful lot of money, hadn't gotten anywhere and probably didn't realise the potential,” Ecclestone is quoted by business journal Bloomberg
, “I'm sure, if they had, they wouldn't have gone because all this would've been Honda otherwise.”
New owner Brawn insists, however, that the Japanese giant had more than pure financial reasons for its withdrawal and, although he doesn't say as much, is well aware that his two entries are now powered by Mercedes-Benz engines.
“I'm sure they were very frustrated at having to withdraw,” Brawn admitted, “I've had many notes from senior people at Honda, so they are frustrated because, obviously, the team has moved forward, but it was a necessity for their business. It's a pity that they're not part of it."