Renault and Red Bull have both spoken out to insist that they are not about to pull the plug on their Formula 1 projects, as paddock whispers suggest they are two of the teams that could be set to follow Honda out of the exit door.
Numerous figures within the grand prix paddock – FIA President Max Mosley chief amongst them – have claimed that Honda may not be the last team to disappear from the starting grid before the opening race of the 2009 season Down Under in Melbourne in March.
Having reportedly lost a staggering 82 per cent of its share price in the recent global economic crisis – more than any other F1-involved manufacturer – Renault is seen to be at risk, and F1SA
states that Flavio Briatore was this week summoned to an emergency meeting with the French car maker's chief executive Carlos Ghosn, a man who has frequently questioned the validity of the Régie's
participation in the top flight since his appointment.
Whilst admitting that he had been 'surprised' to see Honda leave just as F1 is entering a drastic cost-cutting phase, double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso is adamant that Renault is not set to follow suit.
“It is a shame and a big surprise for me and most of the people in the paddock,” the 27-year-old told Spanish newspaper AS
, “because Honda has been around for a long time and was one of the biggest teams.
“I can imagine it was not an easy decision for them to take and I hope that no one else does the same.
“Renault has always had a sensible approach to Formula 1. It is not a team that squanders money. I believe we are in a good position to fight for the next championship.”
The 21-time grand prix-winner also sought to quash claims that he came close to agreeing terms with the Japanese concern for 2009 – a situation that would have left him without a drive just months away from the new campaign.
“The truth is I am content to be with Renault, but not because Honda has gone away,” Alonso insisted, speaking to Marca
. “I must say that [going to Honda] was never too serious an option.”
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner has similarly re-affirmed the energy drinks backed-outfit's full commitment to the top flight, after the company's owner Dietrich Mateschitz had intriguingly hinted that 'numerous other race teams are having similar thoughts' to Honda [see separate story – click here