BMW has announced it is to quit Formula 1 at the end of the 2009 season, as AUTOSPORT predicted last night.
The news was confirmed at a press conference in Munich this morning, and comes on the back of a disappointing campaign for the outfit.
Dr. Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the BMW board, said that the decision was made after a refining of the company's future strategy.
"Of course, this was a difficult decision for us. But it's a resolute step in view of our company's strategic realignment," he said.
"Premium will increasingly be defined in terms of sustainability and environmental compatibility. This is an area in which we want to remain in the lead. In line with our Strategy Number ONE, we are continually reviewing all projects and initiatives to check them for future viability and sustainability. Our Formula 1 campaign is thus less a key promoter for us.
"Mario Theissen has been in charge of our motor sports program since 1999. We have scored a large number of successes in this period, including some in Formula 1 racing. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mario Theissen and his team for this."
BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen, who spearheaded the company's efforts as an engine supplier with Williams and then later with BMW Sauber, said he understood the reasons behind the withdrawal.
"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," he said. "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 1 racing."
Dr. Klaus Draeger, member of the board who is responsible for development, said this season's poor results had played a part in the move to quit F1.
"It only took us three years to establish ourselves as a top team," he said. "Unfortunately, we were unable to meet expectations in the current season.
"Nevertheless, our ten years of Formula 1 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."
Epsilon Euskadi would be interested in taking the BMW Sauber team's vacant slot in Formula 1 in 2010, if the German squad is not sold on to new owners.
Epsilon was one of the teams to submit an entry for next year's championship, but in the end the FIA opted to give entries to Campos Meta1, Manor Grand Prix and Team US F1.
Epsilon boss Joan Villadelprat insisted however that he was still hopeful of making the grid in 2010 if one of the 13 teams on the list failed to compete.
Despite time running out to get the project ready in time, Villadelprat said his team is still working on its F1 plans and would be willing to take the spot if it was left open.
"We are still working on the project, at a much slower rate obviously because we don't have the security [to be on the grid]," Villadelprat told AUTOSPORT.
"What we can say is that the people who were interested in helping us are still interested, which is something incredible. And if the opportunity arises, we are going to attack it, there's no doubts about it."
The former F1 team manager admitted he was surprised about BMW's decision following all the work the German car maker has carried out for the future of the sport.
"I'm surprised because they have done a lot of work, on the Concorde Agreement, and being members of FOTA... But it's the always same with big manufacturers, and in the end it's other people making the decisions, and that's what Max Mosley feared and what he was saying."
On Wednesday, BMW announced it will withdraw from Formula 1 at the end of the 2009 season, and it is not yet known if the former Sauber squad will remain on the grid next year under a different name.
Board member Dr. Klaus Draeger said BMW was yet to decide on what it will do with the team or its staff.
"Since we only made this decision yesterday, we cannot provide any more precise information," he said. "We will develop and assess various scenarios and do our best to find a solution for the employees in Hinwil and the staff members involved in the Formula 1 project in Munich.
"We are aware of the responsibility we shoulder and will inform the staff as soon as we can make a clear statement."
The Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) has vowed to do all it can to help secure a future for the BMW Sauber team, following its parent company's decision to quit the sport.
Just as FOTA moved to help keep Brawn GP on the grid after Honda withdrew from F1 last December, the organisation's secretary general Simone Perillo said on Wednesday that the teams' body had held immediate talks to confirm its support for the Hinwil-based operation.
"FOTA Teams have immediately consulted each other and are ready to assure all the necessary support to the Swiss-based team, whose membership in the association is confirmed, to continue its involvement in the F1 Sport," said Perillo.
FOTA is poised to begin a detailed evaluation of what improvements can be made to the sport - and one option it is openly considering it for teams to run three cars in a bid to keep grid numbers high.
"It is worth mentioning that a professional work has already begun within FOTA, aimed at increasing the involvement of the fans and at improving the F1 show," continued Perillo.
"Among those initiatives, one that could be interesting is the introduction of a third car on the grid. FOTA will seek the opinions of all the most relevant stakeholders in order to exchange ideas and define proposals for the future of Formula 1.
"FOTA Teams now wish to have the necessary certainty and stability within Formula 1 in order to focus on those fundamental priorities for the future."
times are bad