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Honda confirm exit while FIA announce standardised transmissions - The withdrawal from Japan has bigger impacts across F1

Published by Mr. C

Japanese car maker Honda have officially pulled the plug on their F1 operations this morning.

Last blast from Honda

According to AP, Honda CEO Takeo Fukui confirmed yesterday's speculation during a news conference in Tokyo today:

We have come to the conclusion that we will withdraw from all Formula One activities, making 2008 the last season of participation.

- Takeo Fukui

Fukui blamed a deteriorating world economy as reason for the teams abrupt departure, before confirming that the team will be put up for sale and offered an apology to supporters:

I also apologize to our loyal fans who have supported us so well over the years in F1.

- Takeo Fukui

The FIA were quick to respond to the announcement with a public letter to all teams. In it Max Mosley confirmed exclusive negotiations with Cosworth, Xtrac and Ricardo relating to standardised transmissions for 2010 at a guaranteed price of £18.1 million for three years.

Although teams would be free to use their existing engines, the deal asks for at least four of them to take up the offer, with prices reduced accordingly should more be interested. Regardless of engine choice the XR transmission will be mandatory for all teams in 2010.

The deadline for interested parties is next Thursday so I guess we can't accuse the FIA of sitting idly while Formula One self implodes. It's important that teams have the right to continue building their own engines should they so desire and it's nice to see the Cosworth name return to Formula 1.

There wasn't a lot to smile about in the news yesterday but Cosworth already has a homologated F1 engine waiting in the wings and the FIA have made good on their plans to bring a low cost engine supplier into the sport.

It's asking a lot, but with any luck the deal means manufacturers who choose to continue building their own engines will still have scope for finding a competitive advantage, while simultaneously providing a low cost alternative for independent constructors in the sport. The FIA's announcement throws the workers at Brackley a lifeline in their hour of need, making the now engine-less team a more viable going concern (assuming that Honda will continue to supply the horsepower for the whole of 2009).

What this means for the likes of Force India and Toro Rosso remains to be seen, but paying Ferrari and McLaren for their power units may not seem quite such a smart deal this morning.

We should also ask, what of Williams and their technical partnership with Toyota? A standardised transmission means the value of Frank's team may diminish in the eyes of the sport's only remaining Japanese entrant, but equally the deal that requires the Grove outfit to run Kazuki Nakajima may be less enticing now Cosworth have returned to the fold.

There's much to discuss in the world of F1 today. We have far more questions than answers, but please keep your thoughts coming.