Mexican billionaire denies buying Honda Formula One team

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Carlos Slim
Image: José Cruz/Agência Brasil.

Following recent news that Honda had withdrawn from Formula One in 2009, initial rumours that Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim has rescued the team appear to be false. Foxsports quotes a Telmex release as saying "The Telmex Team can confirm that Carlos Slim Helu has not bought the Honda F1 team nor is holding any negotiations to do so. Therefore all information related to this subject has no basis and is completely false." Slim is the CEO and President of Telmex, a telecommunications provider in Mexico, and claims to be the world's second richest person.

The initial reports suggested that a team had already been chosen including Jenson Button and rookie Bruno Senna as its drivers for 2009. Senna, who is the nephew of triple world champion Ayrton Senna, was said to be replacing veteran Rubens Barrichello. Slim is already sponsoring Senna through Embratel, one of his group's subsidiaries. Claims that Slim paid a visit to the Honda team facility in Northamptonshire in December also seem incorrect following a comment from team principal, Ross Brawn, in London's Daily Telegraph that "We would love it if it were true but it's pure speculation from various members of the media." A further quote stated that "It's just been one of those rumours which has developed a life of its own."

Honda withdrew from Formula One recently following a 40% slump in its retail car sales and an estimated budget in excess of US$350m annually. The recent season was not successful for Honda which saw them finish ninth in the constructors' championship, only beating Team India and Super Aguri, who each failed to register a single championship point in 2008.

Almost a week ago reports began circulating that Slim was interested and that other suitors may include Vijay Mallya and David Richards. Mallya took an active role in Formula One in 2008 with his purchase of the Spyker F1 team for US$130m. The first year was a tough one for Mallya and the team with constant failure to finish and not a single championship point gained. Richards is reported to have already met with potential investors in the Middle East. He has the experience as former team principal for BAR and Benetton Formula One motor racing teams.