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GP Week : Issue 37
>>F1 INSIGHT awful lot has changed. Our 2008 season review spoke much of the financial belt-tightening which would have to occur over the winter, but nobody could have imagined that the global economic meltdown which has affected each and every one of us in recent months would hit so fast and cut so deep. B Not a month had passed after the end of the F1 season before Dietrich Mateschitz had bought Gerhard Berger’s 50% stake in Toro Rosso, meaning that Red Bull once again held complete ownership of two Formula 1 teams. But if that was a slight shock, what came next rocked the sport. On December 5, Honda announced it was pulling out of Formula 1 with immediate effect. With the world’s economies in freefall and every car manufacturer reporting drops in sales, Honda used the turndown to legitimise its sudden withdrawal, but there were many within the sport who felt the decision had not had its basis so firmly planted in the global economic situation as Honda would have them believe. It was widely known that the company had been looking for a way out for some time, and the money worries of the world seemed a very neat excuse for Honda to quit and save face. ELIEVE it or not, it’s been four months since the last issue of GPWeek hit the web, and in the world of Formula 1 an While their withdrawal stunned the wider sporting world, it was met with firm commitments to Formula 1 by almost every other manufacturer. But while the other teams stood firm, it was now obvious that immediate change was needed to the financial infrastructure of the sport. No longer could F1 exist on excess. No longer could teams support staff numbers in excess of 700 people, with unlimited budgets. The finances just couldn’t support such a decadent sport. Things had to change. The first move towards meaningful change came at the Monaco Business Forum in mid-December when the newly formed Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) met with the FIA to discuss the future. The discussions and agreements reached were said to have been “beyond all expectations”and on December 12 the FIA announced plans for immediate cost cuts which would see a 30 percent drop in expenditure in 2009. In-season testing was to be banned, wind tunnels over 60 percent in scale were to be outlawed and engine life was to be doubled to just eight units per car per season. In the meantime, moves were going on behind the scenes to find Honda a new buyer. Both David Richards at Prodrive and Sir Richard Branson of the mighty Virgin emerged as likely candidates for an external takeover, but both men’s interest Yes, no: Honda made noises about 2009 during testing late last year, then pulled the pin ... 29