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Ecclestone working to save Honda F1 team

February 17, 2009 12:50 IST

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said he will do what he can to keep Honda's team on the starting grid after the Japanese manufacturer pulled out in December.

Team principal Ross Brawn and chief executive Nick Fry are looking for new owners and backers although the most likely scenario for the 700-strong British-based team remains a management buyout.

Ecclestone said he is confident the renamed team would make the season-opening race in Australia [Images] on March 29.

"We've been talking to them [the management], whatever happens we'd like to see the Formula One team stay in business," Ecclestone told the Times website on Saturday.

Asked whether he could make a financial commitment to help their fight for survival, he added: "I'd rather not comment on that but we will do whatever we have to do to try to make it happen.

"I don't even know whether we could legally be involved - we probably couldn't," he said, referring to European Commission rules.

"The Commission might say that because we are the commercial rights-holder [that] we shouldn't be part of it. I don't know at this stage, but there is a possibility that loans could be made or something."

Britain's Jenson Button [Images] and Brazilian Bruno Senna, nephew of the late triple champion Ayrton, are expected to drive if the team are in a position to compete in Melbourne.

MERCEDES ENGINES

The renamed team will need a new engine supplier, with Honda saying in December they were pulling out completely, but McLaren's [Images] partners Mercedes are willing to provide the power units.

"We have offered as much help and assistance as we can in the interests of the sport as a whole and the solidarity of the Formula One Teams' Association to help the Honda team stay in business," McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh told the Guardian newspaper.

The paper added, however, that the current Honda team management still had to convince Mercedes that they could pay the 8 million euro ($10.33 million) fee for an annual supply of engines and could have only 10 days left to do so.

Mercedes also wanted to be sure the team's new identity and sponsors would not compromise their brand, the paper added.

Senna is expected to bring sponsorship from Brazil's [Images] Petrobras, who previously backed Williams, and telecoms company Embratel.

The Brazilian was runner-up in the GP2 support series last season but will have a hard road ahead of him if he is confirmed, with the team unlikely to test before the first race and unable to do so once the season starts under new regulations.

Honda were considered Formula One's biggest spenders last year, splashing out an estimated $300 million on a team that scored just 14 points from 18 races and finished a dismal ninth overall.

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