BMW announced at an urgent press conference in Munich, Germany on Wednesday morning that it will withdraw from Formula One at the end of the 2009 season. The decision was made at a board meeting 24 hours earlier.
"I can understand why this decision was made from a corporate perspective," said team boss Mario Theissen, who admitted he was disappointed but would push for good results in the seven remaining grands prix.
Bernie Ecclestone said earlier he believes the decision was due to a lack of results.
"It's a resolute step in view of our company's strategic realignment," said board chairman Dr. Norbert Reithofer. "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."
It was confirmed that the saved money would be used for "new drive technologies and projects in the field of sustainability", and involvement in other motor racing series including American Le Mans. BMW also said possible redundancies both in Munich and at the BMW-Sauber team's Hinwil base in Switzerland "cannot be quantified at present", but it is already rumored that minority shareholder and founder Peter Sauber may step in and keep the team in operation.
"Since we only made this decision yesterday, we cannot provide any more precise information," said development board member Dr. Klaus Draeger. "We will develop and assess various scenarios and do our best to find a solution for the employees," he added. "We are aware of the responsibility we shoulder and will inform the staff as soon as we can make a clear statement."
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.