At an extraordinary press conference called early morning on Wednesday at BMW's headquarters in Munich, the German automaker's bosses confirmed that the company will be pulling out of Formula 1 at the end of the current season. On the back of a dissapointing campaign for the BMW Sauber F1 team, Dr. Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the BMW board of directors, said that this difficult decision was taken in line with the company's "strategic realignment".
Having been in Formula 1 for almost a decade now, first as an engine supplier to the customer Williams and then the Sauber F1 team, BMW took over the Sauber team to launch their own works F1 team at the beginning of 2006. But coming into their third season, the German auto giant, having spent hundreds of millions of euros on their Formula 1 operations over the years is yet to see a Grand Prix victory. With no remarkable turnaround in sight in the short term future, there has been talk from the beginning of the current season that the company might pull out at the end of this year if they do not show any clear progress.
BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen said that although it was a difficult decision, he fully understood the reason for the withdrawal. He said that although the employees at Hinwil and Munich would have like to continue this ambitious operation, he does understand why this decision was made from a corporate perspective. Theissen also said that they will continue to fight for some good results in the remaining few races to bid a good farewell to Formula 1.
BMW's director for development, Dr. Klaus Draeger, said that this season's poor results played a key part in the move to quit Formula 1.
It now remains to be seen what BMW decides to do with the BMW Sauber F1 team and its employees. They have a big F1 operation based at Hinwil in Switzerland and the fate of all those staff is hanging in the balance now. Although there might be several potential buyers interested to take over the operations and continue the team, perhaps with a new name and a new engine supplier.