The BMW Group announced today it will not continue its Formula One campaign after the end of the 2009 season. It states that resources released as a result are to be dedicated to the development of new drive technologies and projects in the field of sustainability. However, BMW will continue to be actively involved in other, cheaper motorsport series.
The landmark decision to restructure BMW Motorsport's activities was made at the Board of Management's meeting yesterday. "Of course, this was a difficult decision for us. But it's a resolute step in view of our company's strategic realignment," explained Dr Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. "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. Our Formula One campaign is thus less a key promoter for us," said, Reithofer.
Dr Klaus Draeger, the member of the Board of Management responsible for development, said: "It only took us three years to establish ourselves as a top team with the BMW Sauber F1 Team. 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."
It seems inevitable that possible redundancies in the F1 divisions in Munich and Hinwil are possible but they made no commitment in this area. Said Draeger: "Since we only made this decision yesterday, we cannot provide more precise information. 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 One 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."
BMW will continue its programs in a number of motorsport series,such as the World Touring Car series and young driver promotion program in Formula BMW. This will be supplemented by BMW's participation in ALMS, the American Le Mans Series, endurance races and production-based customer sports. Furthermore, BMW Motorrad Motorsport will continue its campaigns, with the superbike world championship leading the way.
BMW looks back on a long track record of success in the field of motorsports: BMW achieved eight Formula One victories from 1982-85 with Brabham. In 1983, BMW won the driver's championship with Nelson Piquet (Brabham BMW). The last win with the legendary turbo engine followed with Benetton in 1986. Ten victories were scored during the partnership with Williams (2000-05). BMW had a total of 19 grand prix wins and 33 pole positions before the BMW Sauber F1 Team era.
In its debut season in 2006, the newly established BMW Sauber F1 Team was fifth in the constructor's championship. In 2007, the German-Swiss team came in second following the McLaren-Mercedes exclusion from the points standings. The 2008 season saw the team in the hunt for the world championship until the end of the season, finishing third. Polish-born Robert Kubica achieved the first and hitherto only GP victory in Canada in June 2008. So far, the BMW Sauber F1 Team has taken one pole position (Kubica, Bahrain 2008) and 16 podium finishes. The BMW Sauber F1 Team is eighth in the current 2009 manufacturer's standings.
With the global economy continuing to shrink, and BMW's sales numbers shrinking, abandoning the F1 program seemed inevitable. In fact, some observers thought the decision would have been made before this season.
By releasing the substantial funds required to run its F1 program, BMW can invest in the vital new technology needed to sell cars in the coming years. This will incude its hybrid program, fuel cell, electric drive and so forth.