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Honda pulls out of Formula One

Monte Carlo The shock news that Honda is to pull its team out of Formula One is still reverberating around the sport of motor racing.

Honda’s F1 executives, Ross Brawn and Nick Fry, are seeking new owners for the British-based team before the 700 workers receive their redundancy notices. Honda has just announced it will give the management up to three months to find a buyer.

Meanwhile motor racing’s ruling body, FIA, will host an annual dinner in Monaco on Friday to discuss the crisis and, almost as an afterthought it seems, Lewis Hamilton will be presented with his first World Drivers’ Championship regalia.

McLaren co-owner Ron Dennis said: “We know we have to reduce our costs to cater for the inevitable downturn in income that is coming in 2010 and 2011. We predict that our turnover will drop to as low as £175 million a year. Our budget comes from the advertising budgets of the companies that support us, and inevitably advertising budgets get slashed or, at least are significantly trimmed in times of economic strife.”

FIA president Max Mosley said: “The FIA would join with FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) in seeking to persuade FOM (Formula One Management) to divide the prize money so that up to 12 teams are guaranteed at least $50 million (£34 million) each. This would ensure a full grid with a strong possibility that new teams will enter the championship, filling vacancies.”

The developing economic depression will not leave many unscathed, including the wealthiest of operators.

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FIA rejects Lewis Hamilton car

Oh what a tangled web we weave …

And surely nothing is more tangled than McLaren’s relationship with Formula One authorities over the legality of … well, just about everything it seems.

Lewis Hamilton’s strong hopes of becoming F1 World Champion next season face a huge challenge even before the start the new session. The FIA, Formula One’s governing body, has summoned the McLaren team to court on February 14, one month before the first race of the 2008 jamboree. Investigators are said to have found potentially “illegal traces of Ferrari influence” in the car that Hamilton is lined up to drive.

The Spygate saga is still with us, despite the enormous $100m fine levied against the team last season. Make no mistake, this could be fatal to McLaren and Hamilton’s chance of racing at all in 2008.

It seems that a number of forensic computer experts and lawyers have combed through McLaren’s files and designs and interviewed staff. They have also put the car through a series of stringent checks in an operation unique in Formula One.

Our guess? F1 will not shoot itself in the foot by virtually eliminating its brightest star from next season. To do so would be a financial disaster for the sport. And, after all, what is sport for if not to make money for the organizers and participants?

Watch this space.

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