JULY 28, 1997
Yamaha on the way out?
THERE is increasing speculation that the Yamaha Motor Company may be about to decide to end its involvement in FormulaÊ1 after seven difficult seasons. Yamaha entered F1 in 1989 with the West Zakspeed team but the program was a disaster with Bernd Schneider and Aguri Suzuki both struggling to qualify the cars. Yamaha withdrew for 1990 but returned in 1991 with a new V12 engine, which was supplied exclusively to Brabham. Mark Blundell gave the company its first F1 point at Spa that year. Yamaha switched to Jordan in 1992 - the Irish team needing a free engine supply to survive. This led to the signing of a five-year relationship with John Judd's Engine Developments company in Rugby which meant that for 1993 Yamaha effectively badged the old Judd V10. Tyrrell used the engines and there was some success in 1993 and 1994. A further two-year deal was signed for 1995 and 1996 but the first was a disappointing year with the Tyrrell 023 being a difficult car. The all-new three-liter Yamaha V10, which appeared in 1996 proved to be hopelessly unreliable and Tyrrell gave up the engines at the end of last year, Tom Walkinshaw taking over the deal - as he could not find another engine.
The Judd deal ends this autumn and Yamaha must now decide if it wants to invest again with Judd, look for another partner or accept that the project is ill-guided and withdraw. Even if the management in Japan decide to change everything and increase the investment, it is doubtful that the company will find a team to supply - as most team owners are now rather wary of an involvement with Yamaha. The problem is that a withdrawal would result in a major blow to Yamaha prestige - which will be hard for the company to accept.