x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Fry optimistic of buyer interest

The Honda Racing CEO Nick Fry and team boss Ross Brawn will begin the process of attempting to keep the team on the grid for 2009.

Jenson Button could still be racing in Formula One next season.
Jenson Button could still be racing in Formula One next season.

The Honda Racing CEO Nick Fry and team boss Ross Brawn will begin the process of attempting to keep the team on the grid for 2009. Honda Motor Co Ltd's decision to immediately pull the plug on their £200million-per-year (Dh1.07bn) F1 operation has left Fry and Brawn with only a few weeks to find a buyer.

Fry has confirmed three expressions of interest have already been received, all from overseas, with one - if not all - likely to be Middle Eastern in origin. Other prospective buyers are almost certain to step forward, and it will become a question of separating the wheat from the chaff. Fry and Brawn, along with other senior managers at Honda Racing, are hoping a new owner can be found by Christmas, with any deal then concluded in the new year.

With the team already geared up for the new season, and with Honda Japan keeping them afloat through to the end of March ahead of the opening race in Australia, all that is required an owner with very deep pockets to see them through next year and beyond. "We have to have credible interest this side of Christmas," Fry said. "That doesn't mean we are going to have a deal done by the end of the year, but Honda need to be convinced there are potential buyers out there.

"Honda have agreed to provide us with a budget, not quite the one we had, but a budget which will enable us to be on the grid in Melbourne. "If we get to Melbourne and we are not there, then clearly at that stage the situation will look very bleak. I don't think there is an instance of a team not starting the season and coming in later - though the rules allow it. "In theory we could miss four races, but so far history shows no-one has ever done that. The proof of the pudding will be if we are in Melbourne or not.

"It is going to be difficult, but we have had three different serious groups approach us with a view to taking on the team. "So, we will see what happens over the next few weeks." In their current guise, Honda would at least appear to have plenty going for them and are a credible business, despite the downturn in the economy. The car, built at a fully-functional factory in Brackley, is at an advanced stage of production for next year after being designed by technical guru Brawn, with Jenson Button as one of the drivers.

It is an attractive package for any investor, as Brawn said. "Honda are keen we preserve a team and they have given the managers directives to find new owners," he said. "It's a fantastic opportunity for someone to step into what will be a competitive team next year. "The facilities are one of the best in Formula One, the workforce is definitely one of the best in Formula One," he added. "Obviously with Formula One a very high-profile business, I am sure we will get a lot of interest.

"It is filtering that out into serious proposals and understanding what level the investors, or new owners, would want to operate at. "We have aspirations to be at the front of the grid, and we want to find people who have the same ambitions." Meanwhile, the German carmaker Mercedes said yesterday that Formula One teams must cut costs by at least 50 per cent over the next two years although their own financial position remained solid.

"Within the Formula One Teams Association we're working very hard on measures to cut costs, and over the next two years we must achieve cuts of at least 50 per cent," the head of Mercedes Motorsport Norbert Haug said. "Our Formula One involvement is built on financially solid foundations and is in large part financed by our sponsoring partners," Haug added in response to an announcement by Honda. "This pullout is very sad," he said. "It only shows how important the cost-cutting measures are that we've been advocating for more than five years, and which have only been realised to a small degree."

Toyota have made it clear they will not be following Honda out of Formula One. "Toyota is currently committed to succeeding in Formula One, and to reducing our costs," a Toyota statement read. A launch will take place on Jan 15 for the 2009 model, but it will be strictly internet based. * Agencies