This week's news that Honda's F1 involvement looks to have finally come to an end makes you even more convinced that some senior people within the sport really did not see the credit crunch coming.

 Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _64I0922 That is my view, at any rate.

When the community parted company after last November's Brazilian Grand Prix, the talk was all about the prospects for the 2009 F1 world championship. And the new technical rules.

Would the introduction of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) give the F1 business an ecologically positive image? Would the new aerodynamic rules create closer racing and possibly more overtaking? Would slick tyres make the cars safer and more stable? It was almost as if everybody expected it to be business as usual.

Honda, in particular, radiated an optimistic view of the future. Team principal Ross Brawn expressed the view that the team's 2009 car would be the best yet, offering very real hopes of a competitive upsurge in performance. In other words, the huge investment made by Honda over the past five years looked as though it was about to pay off.

Yet within another month the warm and cosy world of Formula One began to become unravelled. You could sense the warning signs. At short notice Honda cancelled their traditional annual press lunch at an expensive restaurant near Oxford. A couple of days later came the news that the team was going to be put up for sale.

Almost unnoticed, a few days later Credit Suisse, one of the most respected financial institutions in Europe, announced that it was going to withdraw its sponsorship of the BMW squad. The wheels were coming off the F1 wagon and things were starting to look very worrying.

Honda was at a turning point. With a car manufacturing plant in the UK, at Swindon, it suddenly saw the bottom crash out of its sales figures in this country. A virtual 50 per cent cut in new cars being sold meant that the Swindon factory had to be placed on short-time working.

This mirrored Honda's experience across the globe. Yet its F1 team - which had been spending almost double the McLaren budget on its aerodynamic development programme - was costing in excess of $200m a year to run and had just finished ninth and last in the 2008 constructors world championship on 14 points.

 Steven Tee/LAT Photographic.
ref: Digital Image _I4V1371 Winners Ferrari scored 172 points.

It was a time for painful self-examination. The real question here was if Honda, for example, had won three Grands Prix in 2008, would it have been deciding to pull out? Most people in the F1 pit lane think that this is extremely unlikely. Sure enough, Honda was in trouble with its road car sales, but the prevailing view is that the senior management in Tokyo used the consistent underperformance of the F1 team as the excuse they needed to divest themselves of an embarrassing component of their business empire.

And, barring a miracle, that looks like being the end of the story.