BMW to pull out next year

The Munich carmaker's abrupt decision, after a dismal season on the track and with the industry in crisis, leaves the glamour sport with just four manufacturers — Fiat-owned Ferrari, McLaren's partners Mercedes, Renault and Toyota.

However, three new teams are due to enter next year with others on standby. "The BMW Group will not continue its Formula One campaign after the end of the 2009 season," the Munich carmaker said in a statement issued before a news conference at their headquarters.

"Resources freed up as a result are to be dedicated to the development of new drive technologies and projects in the field of sustainability. BMW will continue to be actively involved in other motorsports series."

Team boss Mario Theissen told reporters that the natural scenario would be for a partner to take over the team that BMW bought from its Swiss founder Peter Sauber in 2005.
BMW's exit is the first prominent withdrawal from the series since Honda quit in December due to tough business conditions. That team was resurrected as Brawn GP, the current championship leaders who now use Mercedes engines.

BMW's decision, taken at a board meeting only on Tuesday, came just as the teams were on the verge of signing a new commercial agreement that would have committed them to at least the end of 2012.

It also follows a standoff between the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) and eight of the teams that nearly led to a breakaway championship, plunging the sport into its biggest crisis in 60 years. "Of course, this was a difficult decision for us. But it's a resolute step in view of our company's strategic realignment," said board of management chairman Norbert Reithofer.


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