Honda set to reveal F1 exit plans

Formula One is bracing itself for an announcement by the Honda Racing team on Friday morning that could pave the way for one of grand prix racing's biggest names to exit the sport

Honda set to reveal F1 exit plans

Amid the worldwide financial downturn and the impact that has had on Honda's car sales, it is understood that the Brackley-based team's future is now in serious doubt.

Insiders have told autosport.com that the team's senior staff were called for a meeting at the factory on Thursday afternoon and informed that Honda in Japan were no longer willing to bankroll the outfit.

It is suggested that the team will be put up for sale - and if no buyer is found by March then the manufacturer will simply pull the plug and withdraw from the sport.

Amid the current financial climate, it is unclear where Honda Racing would hope to find a buyer willing to support a Formula One team - with budgets already in excess of £100 million per year.

There are suggestions, however, that Honda may be willing to offload the team free of charge to anyone willing to support it - and they could even continue to supply engines for a period of time until another technical partner is found.

However, sources have suggested that team principal Ross Brawn is already eyeing a tie-up with Ferrari for power-units should a buyer be found - with the Italian manufacturer having spare capacity now after ending their deal with Force India.

It is understood that Brawn and F1 CEO Nick Fry are scheduled to fly to meetings in Tokyo on Monday to discuss the future of the team with Japanese bosses - and especially define what happens if no buyer is found.

Honda Racing remained silent about the speculation on Thursday evening, with neither press officers nor senior team personnel available for comment. It is understood the staff informed of the decision were told not to discuss the matter prior to an official announcement being made.

It is expected Honda will issue a press release early on Friday morning revealing their plans. It comes after a challenging year for the team, which had begun a rebuilding process under the leadership of Brawn.

Any pullout by Honda Racing will send shockwaves through F1, and cast question marks over the future of other manufacturers' longterm participation. It would also come several months after FIA president Max Mosley warned that the sport was unsustainable at the moment because of the high costs needed to compete.

It would also mean the grid being reduced to just 18 cars, and would leave drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello without seats.

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