The Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim has been linked with the takeover of ailing Formula One team Honda. On Saturday, La Stampa in Italy reported Slim had "saved" Honda. "The news is not official as all the details have yet to be formalised," said the paper. "But two things are certain - the team has been saved and the drivers will be Jenson Button and rookie Bruno Senna." However, BBC Sport reported later that Slim was just one of four interested parties, believed to also include a UAE consortium ahead of next year's inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, talking to the former bosses of the F1 team.
Amid slumping car sales triggered by the global economic crisis Honda were no longer willing to bankroll the team and its estimated annual budget of US$500 million (Dh1.8 billion). A deadline of next month has been set to find an investor. If no buyer is found, Honda's exit will leave the multi-billion sport, dominated by car makers, facing a depleted grid of just 18 cars. The Japanese team have been the big spenders in Formula One in recent years. Ross Brawn, the former Ferrari technical director who won multiple championships with Michael Schumacher, was hired to run the Honda team at the end of last year.
Despite its huge resources, Honda had a dismal 2008 season and was pinning its hopes on next year's new rules levelling the playing field. Button, a winner for Honda in Hungary in 2006, scored just three points while Barrichello took 11. The team finished ninth overall. The last team to leave F1 was the Honda-backed Super Aguri, who folded for financial reasons in April. The Brazilian Senna, the 25-year-old nephew of the late triple world champion Ayrton, had previously been tipped to take the place of his compatriot Rubens Barrichello before Honda's decision to pull out of the sport. *With agencies