Honda have announced their immediate withdrawal from Formula One, the Japanese manufacturer's president and CEO Takeo Fukui confirmed on Friday morning.
After a night of frenzied speculation about the future of the Honda Racing team, Fukui told a hastily called press conference in Tokyo that difficult financial conditions had forced the company to make the decision.
"Honda must protect its core business activities and secure the long term as widespread uncertainties in the economies around the globe continue to mount," he said. "A recovery is expected to take some time.
"Under these circumstances, Honda has taken swift and flexible measures to counter this sudden and expansive weakening of the marketplace in all business areas.
"However, in recognition of the need to optimize the allocation of management resources, including investment regarding the future, we have decided to withdraw from Formula One participation.
"We will enter into consultation with the associates of Honda Racing F1 Team and its engine supplier Honda Racing Development regarding the future of the two companies. This will include offering the team for sale."
Autosport.com understands that Honda Racing team principal Ross Brawn and CEO Nick Fry are due to fly to Tokyo on Monday for talks with the Japanese chiefs about the future.
Sources suggest that Honda chiefs have been told that the team will be funded only until March - giving them three months to find a new buyer before they are shut down.
It is understood staff have been told that potential buyers have already been lined up, with Brawn already focused on securing an engine supply deal with Ferrari to try and keep the team in F1.
Fukui admitted that the withdrawal decision had been a hard one to take - especially as Honda had taken a victory as a car maker in 2006 and had already invested a huge amount of money in bidding to return to the top under the leadership of Brawn.
He added: "In its third era of Formula One activities, Honda has been participating in Formula One races from the 2000 season, initially with BAR, by adopting a new format of jointly developing racing machines. Subsequently, in a move to meet the changing environment surrounding Formula One, we switched to running a 100% Honda-owned team commencing with the 2006 season.
"Surmounting many challenges, the Honda Team achieved a grand prix victory in 2006, enabling Honda to receive overwhelming support from Honda fans around the world that were looking forward to greater success.
"It, therefore, has been an extremely difficult decision for us to come to this conclusion without having been able to fully meet the expectations of our fans.
"By making the best of what we have learned during these times of economic turmoil, coupled with the spirit of challenge gained through active participation in racing, we intend to continue with our commitment in meeting new challenges.
"Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank our fans and all those who have supported Honda's Formula One efforts, including everyone in the world of Formula One."