Details emerge of Honda's withdrawal from Formula One

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Jensen Button driving one of the two 2008 Honda F1 cars at the Malaysian Grand Prix
Image: flickr user kuda2001.

More details have emerged over the weekend after the surprise announcement last week of Honda's intention to sell its Formula One racing team, Honda Racing F1. The team management, Nick Fry and Ross Brawn, have already announced confidence in their ability not only to find a buyer for the team but also to deliver the performance expected of Honda's 2009 car. Prices as low as £1 have been put forward as possible prices tags for the Northampton based team, with Honda CEO Takeo Fukui stating that "Just to make the team possible to exist, a small price tag is acceptable".

On Saturday the Japanese car giant said that before selling the team it was going to offer British driver Jensen Button, who had given the Honda team its only victory, a way out of his recently signed multi-million pound contract with the team so he could try to get a drive with other teams. However, Ross Brawn appears eager to retain the Briton and either retain Brazilian Rubens Barrichello or sign GP2 driver Bruno Senna, nephew of legendary racer Ayrton Senna. At an industry awards dinner, Button indicated his desire for a buyer to be found for Honda, saying any buyer would get "... a great team with excellent facilities. And with the leadership of Ross Brawn, and the whole team as they are, we can come through this and be on the grid in 2009". Button has also spoken of his shock and pain at Honda's decision.

Honda Racing F1 logo

Ross Brawn, who was brought into the Honda team with much fan fare before the 2008 season, has spoken of his shock at finding out about the sale of the team. Brawn, who is credited with helping Michael Schumacher and Ferrari dominate Formula One for much of the last decade, indicated he was expected funding cuts and had prepared a reduced budget but hadn't expected the full withdrawal of support that Honda announced. Brawn has also indicated understanding of Honda's reasoning, with their sales down 40% in some markets and Honda F1's £200m+ budget a cost they were unwilling to bear.

Though Honda has committed to providing a budget for the team until March, the budget is lower than that which had been expected and so the team has had to pull out of the crucial winter tests at Jerez. This has denied Formula One hopeful Bruno Senna another test with the team and has combined with the engine implications of Honda's withdrawal to push the new car's final testing from January to March, just weeks before the first Grand Prix in Australia. Ross Brawn however remains confident of competing with new Formula One frontrunners BMW Sauber and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has tipped the team as a great buy, saying "I've no doubt Honda would have been in top four next year without any problems. They've spent a lot of money to put themselves in that position so if anyone does want to be in F1 this is a team they should look to buy. It's a big opportunity for any company that's run efficiently to benefit".


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