Bernie Ecclestone has claimed that Honda's shock withdrawal from Formula 1 is 'no great loss' to the sport, criticising the big-budget Japanese manufacturer for having 'wasted millions and [been] a bad example to other teams'.
Honda's announcement that it is to quit the top flight with immediate effect – and close down its Brackley operation, should a suitable buyer not be found within three months – sent ripples through the grand prix paddock, but Ecclestone has seemed to suggest that the news barely raised so much as a flicker on his radar.
“Honda will be no great loss,” the sport's commercial rights-holder is quoted as having said by F1SA
. “Just look at where they finished in the championship – ninth. They wasted millions and were a bad example to other teams.
“In Formula 1, teams come and go – it's not the end of the world. Only Ferrari has been there since the start. Now they (Honda) have gone, we've got a chance to bring in some sense to the teams about how much they should spend.”
Though the 78-year-old is confident a rescue plan will be achieved, even as early as next week – telling British newspaper The Daily Telegraph
that he is 'keen for the team to be kept in place; we have whittled it down to three serious potential buyers' – should that fail to come off and another outfit joins Honda on the F1 scrap heap before the 2009 season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Ecclestone will no longer even have a sport to talk about.
, meanwhile, has reported that the decision to walk away from competition is likely to cost Honda in Japan some $150 million if the squad cannot be sold, taking into account the disposal of the high-tech Northants factory, the termination of dozens of supplier contracts and Jenson Button's recently-signed, £8 million-a-year three-year deal, and redundancy packages for as many as 800 staff.
“Five years from now, I think history will show we made the right decision,” remarked Honda Motor Company President Takeo Fukui.
That decision, however, has been called into question by three-time F1 World Champion and seasoned observer of the sport Sir Jackie Stewart, with the experienced Scot wondering whether the decline in global car sales is entirely to blame.
“I don't think Honda would have closed down their operations if they had finished third or fourth rather than ninth in the constructors' championship,” the 69-year-old told Scottish newspaper The Herald