In the wake of Honda's shock announcement that it is withdrawing from Formula 1, it has been speculated that Red Bull Racing could be the next in-line to follow suit and walk away from the sport into which it has invested millions - after owner Dietrich Mateschitz admitted that 'numerous other race teams are having similar thoughts'.

If Honda's departure - having spent a record-breaking ?147 million in 2008 for a paltry return of just 14 points and ninth position out of ten in then final constructors' standings, substantially the lowest of any manufacturer-backed outfit - is in the current global economic climate understandable, then fears must also be expressed about RBR.

In 2007, British newspaper The Independent reports, the expenditure of Red Bull Technology - the company which designs and builds cars for both Red Bull Racing and 'junior' concern Scuderia Toro Rosso - climbed by 22 per cent to ?130.3 million, the third-greatest sum ever spent on a UK-based F1 team.

?36.1 million of that went on staff wages, ?25.5 million was allocated to R&D and a further ?10 million was accounted for by new office and workshop equipment. Of that total, only ?10.25 million came from sponsorship, leaving Mateschitz's energy drinks company to foot the remainder of the bill.

As a result of that increased spending and the cost-cutting being implemented in the top flight, the popular but expensive Red Bulletin magazine has been canned and the Formula Una grid girls initiative halted, and it has been suggested that Red Bull has recently re-purchased STR from former grand prix star Gerhard Berger in order to be able to sell off both teams in one fell swoop.

In four years of F1 competition, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso have achieved just a sole victory - courtesy of Sebastian Vettel's incredible breakthrough triumph in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in September - and finished respectively seventh and sixth in the constructors' rankings in 2008. Mateschitz revealed that he had not been overly taken aback by the latest turn of events.

"Honda's withdrawal is not surprising," the Austrian billionaire magnate told French news agency AFP. "Numerous other race teams are having similar thoughts.

"The main issue now is whether the reductions in costs all of us must make will come quickly enough to guarantee a sufficient number of teams carrying on.

"We will leave the teams [to] decide whether to build them (the cars) themselves or to have an independent constructor do it."

The 64-year-old added that Honda's announcement would 'have no impact on the choice of Toro Rosso's pilots' for 2009.

Despite an assurance that it will still be a feature on the grand prix grid next season [see separate story - click here], there are also serious concerns about Toyota's future in F1 - and indeed the future of the sport itself, after the credit crunch has finally taken hold and those inside the paddock have realised they are not as immune as they may have believed.

According to the Japan Automobile Dealers' Association, the country's manufacturers suffered their biggest drop in new car sales in almost four decades last month, and Toyota recently disclosed that their net income by next March will be a massive 68 per cent down at just ?4 billion. Shares in the company have fallen by a staggering 52 per cent over the past year, and so bad have things got that last month the world's largest carmaker was moved to set up an Emergency Profit Improvement Committee.

The sport's industry monitor Formula Money claims that the manufacturers spent ?1.1bn on F1 in 2008. Mercedes gave ?180 million to McLaren, Toyota dished out ?205 million and Honda invested a huge ?240 million. Over the past five years, it is reported, Toyota has splashed out nigh-on ?1 billion - and in 123 races, it has still to register its first win.

FIA President Max Mosley - a vociferous advocate of the need to severely rein in spending - and F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone are both adamant that if action is not taken immediately in such a 'desperate' situation, there may be no future for the sport at all.

"I think it's very likely that we will lose another one or two manufacturers if we don't take steps to cut costs," stressed Mosley - who wishes to see teams operating on about a fifth of their current budget, or in the region of ?30 million a year, by 2010 - in an interview with the Financial Times. "This is a watershed moment. The teams need to get their house in order and cut costs dramatically."

"The trouble is the teams are basically run by technicians who should probably be at home playing with their PlayStations rather than spending fortunes to win races," added a caustic Ecclestone.


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