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F1 NEWS 

Petrobras rules out sponsoring Honda

HondaHonda Racing have lost one of their main sponsors, with Brazilian oil company Petrobras confirming that it does not wish to be part of any plans to save the team.

While negotiations continue to try and secure the future of the Brackley-based outfit, speculation over the weekend had suggested that Petrobras were to be key backers in a rescue deal that would see Bruno Senna elevated to a race seat alongside Jenson Button.

However, not only have Petrobras denied any plans to support Senna, the company has also announced that it does not wish to see through a $10 million (USD) sponsorship deal that it signed with Honda at the end of last year.

Furthermore, without the possibility of linking up with another manufacturer, Petrobras has announced that it will quit F1 entirely because it is only interested in the technical challenges offered by the sport.

Claudio Thompson, Petrobras' Manager of Sports Sponsorship, said: "Petrobras' presence in Formula One was our means to continue technological development and to do that we needed to work closely with a manufacturer.

"Once Honda announced it was pulling out of Formula One, we decided we were going to stop too, because all the manufacturer-backed teams had fuel suppliers for 2009. We're not interested in just being a commercial sponsor without the possibility of using and developing our products."

As well as the decision regarding its future involvement in F1, Petrobras also issued a statement in Brazil responding to the Senna rumours and making it clear that the company has never adopted the policy of supporting drivers.

The statement said: "Petrobras denies the rumours seen in the media about Bruno Senna's hiring by the ex-Honda team with the company's support.

"The company has no contract with Honda or any future team being formed for the 2009 Formula One season. Petrobras also reiterates that under the terms of its Motorsport Sponsorship Programme, it does not sponsor drivers individually."

Although the loss of the Petrobras money is a dent to Honda Racing's bid to put together the budget for the season, it is understood the team are closing in on getting the finances ready to allow them to compete this season.

Although there has been no official comment coming from the team since the end of last year, it had been widely expected that a management buyout by Nick Fry and Ross Brawn would be the most likely outcome from the situation.

However, a report in The Daily Telegraph on Monday quoted a Honda source as saying that a bid from an unnamed third party had emerged that could take the team forward.

The report quoted the source as saying the company behind this mystery bid was: "reputable, able to bring long-term financial stability, with a brand image known throughout the world. Formula One would do well to have them on board."

Jenson Button is already contracted to the team for 2009, while Bruno Senna and Rubens Barrichello have been in negotiations with the team for the second drive.

Petrobras entered F1 in July 1998 with Williams.

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