Japanese media criticize Honda over pullout

Japanese newspapers leveled harsh criticism at cash-strapped Honda Motor over the weekend after its abrupt withdrawal from Formula One.

Honda announced the shock pullout on Friday citing the financial crisis, ending an involvement in the sport which dates back to the 1960s.

Leading F1 commentator Jun Imamiya said Honda had simply given up after performing poorly since returning as a full constructor in 2006.

"Honda, as we knew it in its first F1 period (1964-68) and the second period (1983-1992), didn't give a damn and went on its way, win or lose," Imamiya wrote.

"Fighting right now without calling time is what F1 is all about. Not putting things off. That's what Honda Motor Co. has taught the Japanese people," he added.

Another commentator, Ken Kawakita, accused Honda of deserting fans after it stirred them up "and consumed their expectations as a kind of fuel".

"Honda has publicly declared that 'racing is our DNA' and behaved as if it was a company symbolizing motorsport," he wrote in the Nikkan Sports.

"For being that way, it is socially responsible as a member of the racing world … That responsibility is something that cannot be abandoned in such a selfish manner."

Honda's team racked up just three wins over the years but its engines powered drivers including world champions Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost to 69 victories.

Columnist Kunihiko Akai said Honda's success in the European-dominated sport had been in important in helping Japanese overcome a collective inferiority complex.

"Even though the Japanese people achieved their goals in technologies after they toiled in catching and overtaking the West, there remained a mental emptiness," Akai wrote in Sunday's Chunichi Sports daily.

"Honda helped fill the void through F1."

Former F1 driver Aguri Suzuki, whose Super Aguri team folded this year, said Honda's demise would have serious repercussions for Japan's future in the sport.

"F1 is a great goal for children in karting," Aguri said.

"With Honda's withdrawal, that goal may seem to be crumbling down. They may possibly feel that the 'world of dreams' is disappearing," he said, quoting Honda's catchphrase.

Former Super Aguri driver Takuma Sato, who started his career at a Honda-owned racing school, described the pullout as a "shock."

"I took an interest in F1 when I saw Ayrton Senna ride a Lotus Honda at the Japan Grand Prix in 1987," Sato said.

"Honda's motorsport spirit has since lived inside me as something absolute."

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