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Branson keen on Honda - F1 boss

Richard Branson
Richard Branson has been strongly linked with a move for Honda F1

Tycoon Richard Branson would "love" to take over the Honda Formula One team, Bernie Ecclestone has said.

Honda have confirmed Branson's Virgin Group is one of several potential buyers of their F1 outfit.

The British-based team was put up for sale in December after Honda announced they would quit the sport as both a constructor and engine supplier.

"I've spoken to Richard's people about it. He would love to do it," said F1 supremo Ecclestone.

The Japanese carmakers hope a deal can be done in time for the start of the 2009 season in Australia on 29 March.

It is thought the team are up for sale for 1 - although any buyer would need to find a budget in the region of 40m to run the outfit for the new campaign.

Honda have said they are negotiating with several buyers and hope a deal can be done in time for the start of the new season on 29 March.

Speaking about the prospect of Virgin being involved with F1, Ecclestone said: "I'd like it very much. It would be super. We're working to try to make it happen."

The team are very short on time to put a deal together to enable them to compete this season.

They are planning to use Mercedes engines, but the German company has set a deadline by which the team have to prove they have the finances in place to pay for the power-plants.

BBC Sport understands that deadline expires in a matter of days.

Honda announced they were pulling out of F1 because of the effects of the global economic crisis.

Since then the leading contender was rumoured to be a planned management buyout led by the team's current chief executive Nick Fry, principal Ross Brawn and three other senior Honda Racing executives.

Honda are prepared to provide some funding to go towards a racing budget for 2009 as this would be cheaper than paying off the contracts of the team's 700 employees.

Branson has been involved with F1 in a minor capacity - his Virgin Mobile company sponsored the Jordan team in 2002.

Virgin Atlantic Japan have also been personal sponsors of Honda-backed Japanese driver Takuma Sato for the past four years.

But a source close to Branson told BBC Sport that the entrepreneur had in the past been reluctant to get involved with F1, because he saw the sport as a "big black hole for money".

Should a buyout be put together, it would be a major boost for the career of English driver Jenson Button as well as the jobs of the team's 700 employees.

Button has no other options for a place in F1 this coming season.

Honda first competed in F1 in 1964 and has clocked up three Grand Prix wins as a full works team.

Its engines have also been behind dozens of victories by stars such as world champions Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

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see also
Global crisis hits Renault team
16 Feb 09 |  Formula One
Coulthard fears for Button future
10 Feb 09 |  Formula One
Honda 'optimistic' on race future
27 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Honda's Fry denies sale conflict
17 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Honda weigh up 'a dozen offers'
08 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Button hopeful over Honda future
08 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Billionaire Slim denies Honda bid
29 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Picking up the pieces at Honda
05 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Global crisis ends Honda F1 era
05 Dec 08 |  Formula One

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