BMW to leave Formula One

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German carmaker BMW announced on Wednesday that it will leave Formula One at the end of season, making it the second major manufacturer to pull out of the sport in less than a year. Honda left F1 last December.

A statement on the team’s website says Formula One was no longer a sustainable or viable venture for BMW but the company will continue to be actively involved in other motorsports.

“Of course, this was a difficult decision for us. But it’s a resolute step in view of our company’s strategic realignment,” says Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. “Premium will increasingly be defined in terms of sustainability and environmental compatibility. This is an area in which we want to remain in the lead. In line with our strategy … 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.”

The decision by BMW comes at a time when carmakers worldwide are reporting lower sales amid the global recession. The company denied that it was pulling out for economic reasons but admitted that disappointing results on the racetrack this season had been a “hiccup” in its ambitions.

BMW’s departure leaves four car manufacturers still competing in F1: Ferrari, Mercedes Benz, Toyota and Renault.