BMW to withdraw from F1
BMW has announced that it is withdrawing its team from Formula One at the end of the current season.
The German manufacturer is the second major backer to withdraw from the sport in the space of eight months - Honda having pulled out in December last year.
The announcement comes ahead of the imminent signing of a new Concorde Agreement - the commercial document that governs F1 and binds teams to the sport for a set period of time.
BMW made its decision after a management board meeting on Tuesday.
"Of course, this was a difficult decision for us, but it's a resolute step in view of our company's strategic realignment," said Dr Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the Board of Management of BMW.
"Premium will be increasingly defined in terms of sustainability and environmental compatibility. This is an area in which we want to remain in the lead.
"We are continually reviewing all projects and initiatives to check them for future viability and sustainability.
"Our Formula One campaign is thus less a key promoter for us."
The decision comes as the team have suffered a downturn in fortunes on the track in a season in which they had hoped to challenge for the world championship.
They currently lie eighth out of ten teams in the constructors' championship, with drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld having scored just eight points between them.
Such disappointing form comes after three seasons of consistent improvement in the wake of BMW's decision to buy the independent Sauber team ahead of the 2006 season, having earlier partnered Williams.
They scored two podium finishes and claimed fifth in the constructors' championship that year before moving up to second in the standings in 2007 - albeit aided by McLaren's exclusion after the 'spy saga'.
Kubica claimed BMW Sauber's first pole position in Bahrain last year before going on to score their first victory at the Canadian Grand Prix.
He and the team led their respective championships before fading as the season progressed - BMW Sauber eventually finishing third behind Ferrari and McLaren.
BMW Motorsport boss Mario Theissen insisted it was the team's intention to push for both titles at the start of the current season.
Like Ferrari and McLaren, the team have struggled to apply this season's sweeping new regulations but, unlike their rivals, they have failed to improve their performance.
In Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, while McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen finished first and second, Heidfeld and Kubica respectively finished 11th and 13th.
"Mario Theissen has been in charge of our motorsport's program since 1999," added Reithofer.
"We have scored a large number of successes in this period, including some in Formula One racing.
"I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mario and his team for this."
In response, Theissen said: "We would all have liked to continue this ambitious campaign and show that this season was just a hiccup following three successful years.
"But I can understand why this decision was made from a corporate perspective.
"We will now focus sharply on the remaining races, demonstrate our fighting spirit and put in a good result as we bid farewell to Formula One racing."
The decision may be seen as a surprise in that BMW has been influential in recent negotiations between the FIA and the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) to cut costs.
It had been thought that the eight FOTA teams would be among the 13 - including three newcomers - to sign the Concorde Agreement and commit to F1 until at least 2012.
But BMW is to focus its resources instead on the development of new drive technologies and sustainability.
Dr Klaus Draeger, member of the Board of Management responsible for development, confirmed that recent poor results were a major factor in the decision.
"It only took us three years to establish ourselves as a top team in Formula One," he said.
"Unfortunately, we were unable to meet expectations. Nevertheless, our 10 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 is certain redundancies will follow, both in Munich and at the former Sauber factory in Hinwil, Switzerland.
Draeger added: "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 participation in the World Touring Car Championship, Formula BMW, the American Le Mans Series and other endurance races, as well as world super bikes.
However, the decision leaves both Kubica and Heidfeld on the lookout for a new drive ahead of the 2010 season.
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