More news is filtering through this week on the future of Honda, and although little has been confirmed by the motor company itself, pace appears to be gathering towards a deal that will see the team on the grid in Melbourne. Reuters and Autosport are saying that negotiations are continuing, and that Rubens Barrichello is likely to remain with the team, partnered with Jenson Button and Ross Brawn will continue as team principal, at minimum.
The Team Formerly Known As Honda is expected to test a car this week ahead of the final group test at Circuit de Catalunya next week. The news of the test is encouraging, although the rumour is not new as this was speculated last week. However, the Yomiuri daily newspaper in Japan have run a story quoting a source at Honda as saying:
We expect to be able to make an announcement from the company and the team in the near future. Honda has been making all possible efforts to avoid the worst option of having to disband the team. Unconfirmed Honda Source.
Of course, we have all heard of speculation of this sort for a few weeks now and many people and companies have been linked to Honda since the Corporation made the initial withdrawal announcement last year. It would appear though that a management buyout is the most likely scenario, with Ross Brawn and possibly Nick Fry being to the two main participants in the deal. It was also noted last week that Caroline McGrory, a staffer employed in the legal department at Honda had purchased two Internet domain names; brawnracing.com and brawnracing.co.uk.
The possibility of Rubens Barrichello extending his Formula One career has hit the press today as well. Barrichello, who has driven for the team since 2006 after leaving Ferrari became the sport’s most experienced driver ever, and said at the time that he feels he has more to give to the sport and would like to continue.
Rubens was competing with Bruno Senna for the seat up until very recently, many (myself included) thought that Barrichello’s career as an active Formula One driver was over. However, should the Honda team be sold and assuming they have good financing in place, it would make sense to hang on to Rubens, the Brazilian driver being very experienced and able to assist with the transfer by developing the under-tested car. In other words, Barrichello is a safe bet, a consistent driver and takes away any worries of developing a rookie driver.
My faith says that next week I’ll be driving a competitive car in the tests in Barcelona – although I have no document in my hands that assures me of that. Rubens Barrichello.
Autosport are saying that the Barrichello deal is not yet signed, as the team are waiting to finalise the deal that will see the team saved. After which point further contracts can be negotiated and cemented. It is however common knowledge now that the team will use Mercedes-Benz engines, Vijay Mallya yesterday saying that the McLaren and Force India supplier had sought his approval before agreeing.
Mercedes-Benz have collaborated with Mallya’s team for 2009, supplying Force India with engines, gear boxes and technical expertise. The FIA usually only allow a manufacturer to supply two teams, which for 2009 would have seen Mercedes’ engines powering McLaren and Force India. However, the German motor company have presumably been given dispensation to supply Honda, for one year according to the Force India boss.
Well, the FIA rules say that an engine manufacturer can only supply two teams. As far as Mercedes is concerned, that’s McLaren and Force India. I think a special one-year dispensation, I understand, has been granted for Mercedes to supply the ex-Honda team just to keep it on the grid.
I could have objected but I chose not to because it is good for F1. Nobody likes to see a team disappear. We had unfortunately Super Aguri disappear last year and I don’t think it is good for the sport that one more team goes. Vijay Mallya.
Mallya’s spirit should be commended. As he said so himself, the deal could have been blocked, but in order to help the sport and the former Honda team, Vijay agreed. A good move, I believe.
The team is not out of the woods yet, and much can go wrong. However, while very late in the day, it is still just about possible for the team to make it Melbourne. Quite what state the car will be in is anybody’s guess, having not tested yet. I’m sure though, fingers are crossed around the world for a twenty car grid in Australia.
Image © HondaF1.