Honda has affirmed that it has no 'desire' to return to F1, even if the present turbulent economic climate improves – contending that the 'mounting [regulatory] restrictions' within the top flight have made it a far less attractive and challenging proposition than it used to be.
The Japanese manufacturer dropped a bombshell late last year when it announced that it was quitting the sport with immediate effect, in response to falling car sales precipitated by the global recession and poor on-track return for its considerable investment in recent years.
That decision plunged the future of its Brackley-based operation into significant doubt, but a dramatic eleventh-hour rescue deal led by Ross Brawn saved the squad and enabled it to make the starting grid for the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne back in March – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Despite Brawn GP's outstanding success over the opening half of the 2009 campaign, though – with no fewer than six victories from nine races for Jenson Button and a commanding advantage in both the drivers' and constructors' world championship standings – Honda is confident that it made the right choice in withdrawing its support, and insisted that it is unlikely to be back anytime soon, if ever.
“It was a real shame that we had to leave Formula 1,” international news agency Reuters
quotes new Honda CEO Takanobu Ito as having said during a media briefing in Tokyo. “On the other hand, F1 is becoming less of a medium in which companies can test their various strengths, and more of an event with mounting restrictions.
“There's little room for us to challenge new fields, so bearing in mind the current state of the series, I don't think we have the desire to return, even if the economy improves.”
Ito – who succeeded predecessor Takeo Fukui in the leading role – added that in the light of Toyota-owned Fuji Speedway announcing that it is no longer willing to host the Japanese Grand Prix, no decision had been made as to whether Honda-owned Suzuka would resume its position as the race's permanent home once more.
Suzuka welcomed F1 every year from 1987 until 2006, before being replaced by Fuji in 2007 and 2008. It is due to stage the 2009 Japanese Grand Prix on 4 October.