Ecclestone helping out at Honda?


As the countdown to Melbourne continues and with no information of worth coming out of Brackley - not even Mr Fry - speculation over the team formerly known as Honda continues.

Despite the lack of a buyer or even an engine deal, it is claimed that Ross Brawn has told the workforce to prepare for the season opener.

Among the stories doing the rounds this week are claims that Bernie Ecclestone might help out, leading to concern that should he become financially involved in the team this could cause a conflict of interest seeing that he owns a large slice of the sport in addition to running it.

"We've been talking to them," he told The Times on Saturday when asked about Honda, "whatever happens we'd like to see the Formula One team stay in business."

Those with memories that stretch back to mid-December might remember that just two months ago, the F1 supremo had a slightly different opinion of the Brackley team.

"Honda will be no great loss," he told the Daily Telegraph. "Just look where they finished in the championship... ninth. They wasted millions and were a bad example to other teams. Now they've gone, we've got a chance to bring in some sense to the teams about how much they should spend."

Back to the present, Ecclestone was asked about the conflict of interest should he 'invest' in Honda, a move which would surely attract the attention of the European Commission.

"I don't even know whether we could legally be involved - we probably couldn't," he admitted. "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."

Fact is, Ecclestone will not be investing his own money, no way. He might advance certain monies, much as he did with Williams, however, he will not be digging into his own pockets.

Previously, Ecclestone 'saved' Minardi, however, the fact is that he helped open a few doors, he never, despite what you read elsewhere, invested a penny in the Italian outfit.

With no news of the dozen potential buyers Fry spoke of on January 8, we can only assume that the management buy-out is going ahead. However, one has to ask, if everything is in place and hunky-dory, why have we heard nothing, not a peep, from the team?

Furthermore, with Mercedes said to be the only potential supplier of a powerplant for the car, all we are hearing is that before a deal is signed the German manufacturer, quite rightly, has to be satisfied that everything is in place and that the new team is financially solid. The overwhelming silence regarding this deal is also worrying.

While nobody wants to see the 700-strong workforce at Brackley out of a job, far less F1 be reduced to nine teams, it is the lack of hard facts and information coming out of Brackley that is worrying.

As in any financial deal, be it selling one's house or promoting one's business, it is vital that prospective customers receive nothing but positive signals. Fact is, although there has been much murmuring in recent days, what with Brazilian sponsors and Ecclestone, no real facts or deals have emerged, with the ubiquitous spokeswoman simply saying: "We are optimistic for the future."

That's what Fry was saying in December.

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Published: 15/02/2009
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