British driver Anthony Davidson is facing the suspension of his Formula One driving career after his Super Aguri team announced it was withdrawing from the series.
The Japanese outfit is ceasing racing with immediate effect and will not be at the Turkish Grand Prix this weekend.
That means, with the exit of Prodrive thanks to the customer chassis issue, the grid of what is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport is now down to 20 cars.
Super Aguri ran into problems in April after a sponsor pulled out of a commitment – and then was unable to find a replacement, despite financial support from its backer and engine supplier Honda.
The team’s long-term future was placed in doubt after the 2008 Concorde Agreement outlawed customer cars which meant Super Aguri, like Red Bull’s B-team Toro Rosso, would have to operate independently in the future.
And in recent days it has become increasingly clear that Honda was no longer prepared to support the team at the expense of its own racing outfit.
Announcing the news in Japan team principal Suzuki Aguri said: “With the help of Honda we somehow managed to keep the team going but we find it difficult to establish a way to continue the activities in the future so I have concluded to withdraw.
“I have been very happy that I was able to achieve a miracle and become a team owner.”
He said that the change of regulations regarding customer chassis had affected the team’s ability to find partners. And he praised the team’s drivers and fans, saying: “Anthony Davidson has always pushed to the limit despite very difficult conditions.
“Takuma Sato has been with us from the very start and has always fought hard and led the team. The drivers have always been so positive and have been fantastic.
“Lastly, I would like to express my thanks to our fans from all over the world, who have loyally supported the team.
“The past two and a half years have flown past but I have no regrets.
“I’m exhausted. I definitely need a break. It’s a piranha club and I kind of feel that I don’t want to stick my fingers back in.”
Davidson himself has yet to comment, and his official website has not been updated with the news.
However, in a question and answer session with Autosport magazine held on April 24, he said: “It’s been a really difficult time, from the end of last year through to the start of this year.
“When we turned up in Australia it was a case of the unexpected, and nothing has really changed in my mindset so far this year. I’m kind of learning to cope with that because it is difficult, really difficult, it’s a battle, a fight.
“I’ve had a few sleepless nights, but you have to have fight in you. You have to feel like you belong, are ready and in top shape.
“Whenever there is a level of uncertainty in any walk of life, it is difficult to find that 100 per cent fight that you need.
“You can tell yourself you are ready, but without testing here and with limited parts at the start of the year and all that stuff, it really does take a lot out of you.
“There are a lot of drivers up and down the grid, with much more experience than myself, who would have crumbled by this point.”
In a piece for the ITV F1 website, James Allen says: “This is a great little team that, certainly in their first year, managed to punch above their weight on many occasions and served as an example of what a well-run customer squad might achieve in Formula 1.
“Since their inception at the end of 2005, the debate over customer cars has gone against teams like this, and it’s clear that as a business model it has no future.
“Honda created Aguri to help themselves out of an awkward situation after they dropped Takuma Sato, and I think they have gone beyond the call of duty in many ways to keep the struggling B-team going.
“With their own increasing need to make competitive headway, it was becoming an unwelcome distraction to have to keep Aguri going.”
He describes Anthony Davidson, who as he points out turned down a testing role with BMW to drive for Super Aguri, as “such a highly respected development driver that I’m sure he won’t be unemployed for long.”
* Were you a fan of Super Aguri? Or do you have views on the customer car issue? Leave a comment and share them with us.