BMW has announced that it will be withdrawing from Formula One at the end of the 2009 season. The announcement came in an emergency press conference at the manufacturer's Munich headquarters on Wednesday morning as the marque becomes the second major car company to leave the sport within eight months.
Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica are currently without drives ahead of the 2010 season
With the meeting believed to have been scheduled at late notice, today's gathering saw principal figures in the company deliberate with F1 team principal Mario Theissen; the talks come in a week where the Concorde Agreement - full regulations which all teams would follow - is set to be signed and commit those involved to competing until the end of 2012.
"It only took us three years to establish ourselves as a top team with the BMW Sauber F1 Team," explained Dr. Klaus Draeger of BMW's Board of Management. "Unfortunately, we were unable to meet expectations in the current season. Nevertheless, our ten years of Formula One experience have had a major impact on our development engineers. We have racing to thank for numerous technological innovations as well as the competitive spirit that drives us to develop mass-produced cars. Unfortunately, we were unable to meet expectations in the current season. Nevertheless, our ten years of Formula One experience have had a major impact on our development engineers. We have racing to thank for numerous technological innovations as well as the competitive spirit that drives us to develop mass-produced cars."
Dr Mario Theissen, team principal
"Of course, we, the employees in Hinwil and Munich, would all have liked to continue this ambitious campaign and show that this season was just a hiccup following three successful years," commented team principal Theissen. "But I can understand why this decision was made from a corporate perspective. We will now focus sharply on the remaining races and demonstrate our fighting spirit and put in a good result as we bid farewell to Formula One racing."
BMW powered Formula One cars dating back to the 1950s, with more recent spells coming as engine supplier with the Brabham team in the 1980s. BMW re-entered F1 with Williams in 2000 before taking victory with Ralf Schumacher at the following year's San Marino Grand Prix. In all, 20 race wins have been clinched courtesy of BMW power, including that of Robert Kubica in Montreal last season.
Wednesday's announcement will result in inevitable job cuts, with a total of 730 workers on its F1 project spread between Munich and Swiss team base Hinwil, which has been expanded massively in recent years since the takeover of independents Sauber.
Robert Kubica won the Canadian Grand Prix last season
BMW first entered as a team in its own right for seven races across 1952 and 1953 before returning as a constructor after buying Sauber in 2005; on the grid in its traditional Bavarian colours the following year, Jacques Villeneuve and Nick Heidfeld spearheaded the team's line-up until the former World Champion was replaced by Robert Kubica, Poland's first F1 driver, in Hungary. In Indianapolis in 2007, BMW was the first team to run Germany's Sebastian Vettel, replacing Kubica after his huge Canadian Grand Prix accident. A first pole position was clinched by Kubica in Bahrain last year before winning the Canadian Grand Prix and leading the Drivers' championship mid-season. Heidfeld recorded fastest laps in Malaysia and Germany as the team continued its gradual progress, including top three Constructors' results in both of the last two seasons.