Honda: No 'serious' buyer for F1 team
|By Jonathan Noble
||Monday, February 23rd 2009, 08:29 GMT
Honda Racing's hopes of Formula One survival suffered a blow on Monday when their Japanese chiefs said they could not see a 'serious buyer' for the team.
After months of speculation about the future of the outfit, with most recent rumours suggesting Richard Branson could get involved, hopes for an imminent deal were dashed with Honda saying that there had been little joy in trying to find someone to take control of the outfit.
Honda's outgoing CEO Takeo Fukui told a press conference in Tokyo, following board meetings in Japan, that the company may have trouble finding a buyer having made little progress since it put the team up for sale in December.
"There are various offers for the team but we have not seen any serious buyer yet," Fukui was quoted as saying by Reuters. "We find the sale process difficult."
Fukui's comments add fresh intrigue to what is going on at Honda Racing, after Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone told the News of the World on Sunday that team chiefs Nick Fry and Ross Brawn had turned down a 100 million pound offer to help save the outfit.
"I tried to help with the management buy-out," said Ecclestone. "They should have taken what I offered. It was a very good offer for everybody concerned. It gave them complete protection but they wanted to do things on their own. Now all we can do is hope and pray."
Time is running out for Honda to find a buyer for the team, with engine supplier Mercedes-Benz reported to need guarantees by the end of Monday that the team have funds in place before it commits to a deal for 2009.
Honda Racing have maintained silence for weeks now about the state of negotiations, with a team spokeswoman merely saying last week that the outfit remained 'optimistic' they would be on the grid in Melbourne.
The Honda Motor Company also announced on Monday that Fukui, a big supporter of motorsport, would be stepping down from his role as CEO in June. He will be replaced by senior managing director Takanobu Ito.