BMW's future in Formula 1 is in serious doubt tonight amid mounting speculation that the German car manufacturer will announce its withdrawal from the sport at the end of this season, on Wednesday.
An emergency press conference has been called at BMW's headquarters in Munich, where it is suggested that the car company may reveal that it has decided to end its involvement in F1. The invitation to the press conference said it had been called because of "current developments in motorsport."
The press conference will be hosted by Dr. Norbert Reithofer, the chairman of the BMW board, Dr. Klaus Draeger, the director for development, and Mario Theissen, BMW motorsport director. The presence of such senior management figures suggests that the announcement will be very significant. Officials at BMW refused to comment about what the press conference was about, but they did confirm that it was 'important' news.
BMW had hoped to fight for the World Championship this year, but instead the F1.09 has fallen short of expectations. Its struggles, allied to the abandonment of its KERS, that BMW had pushed hard for in F1, are likely to have played a part in any decision about the future of the team.
Although BMW Sauber had a difficult start to the season, Theissen has made it clear on several occasions that the team's form had not changed the BMW Board's commitment to F1.
"We analyzed and evaluated the situation and the F1 program with the board prior to the start of the season in February," said Theissen in May. "It was overall a very positive evaluation and judgment, and that hasn't changed. Apparently, everybody is disappointed about the sporting results, but other than that there is no news and we have not discussed it since."
However, sources suggest that a review meeting was planned for July to decide the future of the team – and this may be behind any announcement planned for the morning.
Should BMW confirm it is pulling out of the sport, it will be the second car manufacturer to do so in eight months – with Honda having announced last December that it was to leave the sport. The announcement will be more of a surprise, however, because BMW Sauber was on the verge of signing a Concorde Agreement that would have committed the team to F1 until the end of 2012.