FRANKFURT - BMW confirmed it would leave Formula One racing at the end of 2009 for image reasons as the maker of sporty luxury cars wants to focus on sustainability and the environment. We are of the opinion that the premium segment has to remain a positive role model within our society, Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer said in a statement on Wednesday.

We will remain loyal to motor sports, but we will do this in series that enable us to transfer technology more directly and to realise additional synergies.

BMW's head of research and development Klaus Draeger, who is the management board member responsible for motorsports, said the sole reason behind the decision was a realignment of its strategy to reflect its focus on reducing carbon emissions.

The main reason for this decision was not our current performance or the general economic situation, Draeger said.

(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner)