Saudis scramble to stop Hajj swine flu crisis


BMW Sauber will pull out Formula One after the 2009 season.
Saudi Arabia has launched an investigation into its first fatality from the H1N1 Virus as it tries to head off a swine flu epidemic before millions descend for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, health officials said.

A statement on the BMW Sauber F1 Team’s official Web site stated that “the Formula One campaign is [no longer] a key promoter for us” and that “current developments in motor sport” had resulted in the decision. The Chairman of the BMW board of management said: “Of course, this was a very difficult decision for us. But it’s a resolute step in view of our company’s strategic realignment.” BMW entered Formula One with a takeover of the Sauber F1 team in 2005 and finished fifth in the constructors’ championship in their debut campaign, before racing under their own name in 2006. With an aggressive aim of winning the World Championship within three years, the team came close in 2007 finishing second to Ferrari, thanks largely to the exclusion of McLaren-Mercedes from the points standings.

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In 2008 the team captured third thanks in part to a first win at the Canadian grand prix by Polish driver Robert Kubica. The team currently lie eighth in the constructors’ world championship. The statement continued: “It only took us three years to establish ourselves as a top team with the BMW Sauber F1 team. Unfortunately, the BMW Sauber F1 Team were unable to meet expectations in the current season.” The car-builder was also unable to “quantify redundancies” that may come from the move which, in a further blow to the sport, follows the exit of Japanese manufacturer Honda in December who cited the “sudden contraction of the world economies” as their reason to end racing. The exit of one of the world’s leading car makers from the sport seemingly vindicates warnings by Max Mosley, the president of motorsport’s world governing body the FIA, that costs in the world’s most capital intensive franchise need to be reduced. Mosley said Honda’s withdrawal, who spent $500M per season in F1, had confirmed his “longstanding concern that the cost of competing in the world championship is unsustainable.” A concern that led to Mosley spearheading an FIA plan to enforce controversial cost-cutting measures on the teams for the 2010 season. The Formula One furor explained. These measures, which split opinion within the sport, are expected to be adopted in a watered-down form and could eventually save $60 million from the cost of running a team according to Mosley. In a statement on the FIA’s Web site Mosley stated in December 2008 that: “In the FIA’s view, the global economic downturn has only exacerbated an already critical situation. “It’s difficult to imagine how any manufacturer could stay in the sport unless we make really substantial reductions in costs.”

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