The double whammy of Bridgestone and Toyota’s withdrawal from F1 is sending shivers down the spine of F1.
Today Renault held a scheduled meeting to discuss its future participation in F1. It appears that there will be no communication about the outcome of that meeting until later in the week. French colleagues tell me that they do not expect Renault to pull out, but there is a panicky feeling in the air, as there was after Honda withdrew last Christmas.
The BBC is reporting that acting team principal Bob Bell and managing director Jean Francois Caubet attended the meeting but were not allowed to participate. For Robert Kubica these will be anxious times. He recently signed a deal with Renault and has already suffered one manufacturer’s sudden decision to withdraw this year with BMW.
The Japanese companies’ withdrawal is the first major crisis for new FIA president Jean Todt to deal with. This afternoon the FIA put out a statement which said that the developments were “a concern” and added,
“Toyota’s decision..comes just weeks after its F1 team signed the new Concorde Agreement until 2012.
“Urgent clarification is now being sought from the Toyota F1 team as to its legal position in relation to the championship. This will have a direct bearing on the admission of any future 13th entry.”
My understanding is that Sauber is being told that Toyota is not going to merely give up its entry. Instead it is examining the possibility of selling the entry, or of John Howett leading a Ross Brawn-style management buyout. The employees of Toyota’s F1 factory in Cologne are being paid up to the end of February.
Meanwhile FOTA also issued a statement today which laid some of the blame for Toyota’s withdrawal on the conduct this season of outgoing FIA president Max Mosley,
“Regrettably, notwithstanding Toyota’s commitment to compete until 2012 deriving from the signature of the Concorde Agreement, the particular financial pressures within the car manufacturing industry – together with a period of uncertainty and unnecessary confrontation in F1 that is now finally over – created conditions which have made it difficult for Toyota to stay in the sport at this time.”