Honda saved from the Formula One scrapheap

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Honda saved from the Formula One scrapheap

Mensaje  max_pole el Vie Feb 27, 2009 12:47 pm

The Honda Formula One team will be on the grid for the start of the 2009 season after a management buyout, The Times can reveal. Jenson Button will spearhead the team on the track after two months of intense work on a rescue package by senior managers.
Sources close to the Brackley-based outfit confirmed last night that the deal is going ahead and that the team will conduct a “shakedown” test of their new car at Silverstone next Thursday, which will be Button’s first outing in the new machine.
The management buyout is being led by Ross Brawn, the team principal and former Ferrari technical director, and will be funded by a combination of money from Honda itself for this year, funds from Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One commercial rights-holder, and commercial sponsorship. Recent reports suggested that Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group could be a backer but this was being ruled out by informed sources last night.
It is not yet known under what name the team will operate or in what livery their cars will race. Under independent management, with a chassis designed by Honda and powered by a Mercedes-Benz engine under a supply deal with McLaren Mercedes, the “old” Honda team will be something of a hybrid that is likely to take some time to forge a new identity.
At Silverstone, the new car is expected to run in neutral colours. That outing will be followed by the team’s first full test in Barcelona, starting on March 9, which is the last official run-out before the first grand prix of the season in Melbourne on March 29.
While Button is confirmed in one race seat, no decision has been taken on his team-mate. This will be either Rubens Barrichello, the Brazilian, who has been with Honda for the past three seasons, or his compatriot and Formula One rookie, Bruno Senna, 25, the nephew of the great Ayrton Senna.
The buyout is expected to safeguard the jobs of “the majority” of the team’s 700 employees and was approved at a board meeting of the Honda Motor Co Ltd in Tokyo last Monday. After that meeting, Takeo Fukui, the company’s chief executive, was quoted as saying that no “serious buyer” had come forward and the company was finding the sale process “difficult”.
His comments were taken at the time as a sign that winding up the team was still a likely outcome, but it now seems that these remarks were misinterpreted.
The decision by Honda to approve and support the buyout which is regarded as highly unorthodox by senior managers in Tokyo, is a sensitive matter for a company that had made clear to its shareholders that it was withdrawing from a sport that was costing it more than £200 million a year.
While Button will be relieved to have a drive in his tenth season in Formula One, it looks likely to be another frustrating year in a car that has had a difficult birth and is unlikely to be competitive, at least in the early races.
Elsewhere yesterday, Sir Frank Williams dismissed reports that his team were in financial trouble as a result of the decision by RBS to end its sponsorship of the team in 2010. Williams said that RBS contributes only 10 per cent of the team’s budget and there was plenty of time to find a replacement sponsor from 2011 onwards.
“Don’t worry, there’s hundreds of trillions of cash in the world — something will turn up,” quipped Williams, who added that he was dismayed by a story that suggested his team, and the sport as a whole, is in difficulty. “It was presented as though it was the end of the world for Formula One, which is totally, totally untrue,” he said.

timesonline.co.uk

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