As the shock news of Honda's formula one departure sinks in, fears that another team could drop off the 2009 grid are rising.

As the shock news of Honda's formula one departure sinks in, fears that another team could drop off the 2009 grid are rising.

It was thought Japanese rival Toyota could be the most likely to follow the auto making giant out of the paddock, amid an even worse slump in car sales figures in the key US market.

But it is Red Bull, the Austrian energy drinks company, and owner of two teams, that has issued the most worrying statement, stating it is "not surprised" by Honda's decision.

"Numerous other race teams are having similar thoughts," the Austrian group is quoted as saying by AFP.

"The main issue now is whether the reductions in costs all of us must make will come quickly enough to guarantee a sufficient number of teams carrying on."

Even the sport's major players, like 2008 drivers' world champions McLaren, are feeling the pinch, with team boss Ron Dennis telling The Observer that annual turnover is likely to drop nearly $150m because of the downturn.

"Our budgets come from the advertising budgets of the companies that support us, and inevitably advertising budgets get slashed or, at least are significantly trimmed in times of economic strife," he said.

Ferrari and McLaren's ongoing participation is solid, but all the signs suggest that one more team could go missing ahead of next March's Australian grand prix.

Williams' chief executive Adam Parr told The Times that he expects eight teams to line up on the Melbourne grid. Similarly, Gerhard Berger, the recently departed Toro Rosso co-owner, told Germany's Der Spiegel that "the only question is 'who is next?'"

Asked by the Press Association if he can imagine another team following Honda out the door, FIA president Max Mosley answered "yes".

 

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