Ross Brawn and Nick Fry are expected to be confirmed as the new owners of the former Honda F1 operation, following reports that a $100m management buy-out has been agreed to safeguard the future of the team and a majority of its employees.Crash.net
sources claim that a deal has been struck to ensure that the team will appear on the grid in Melbourne next month, but at the likely cost of several hundred jobs at its Brackley base. Brawn is expected to head up the new team while, contrary to recent speculation, Fry remains on board, albeit in a more 'junior' position to the CEO role he held within the Honda set-up.
The management consortium has emerged as the chosen option of Honda management in Tokyo despite reports of interest from several parties including, most recently, the Virgin Group. Honda is expected to contribute an amount to the project at least equal to what it would have cost the company to wind up its F1 involvement, including paying off the 700+ employees still working at Brackley to ensure that any rescuer has a car with which to race under this year's new F1 rulebook.
While an official statement regarding the situation is now expected within hours, Crash.net
's source does not believe anyone else to be involved with the buy-out.
"While I expect Honda to be contributing, I don't think Bernie Ecclestone will be involved, as has been suggested," he confided, "You only have to look at Honda's response in the days after Bernie expressed an interest - with their claims of 'no serious buyer' - to suggest that he won't be involved."
A second source confirmed that it was to be expected that jobs would go at Brackley once the deal is confirmed, as a belt-tightening exercise commenced to ensure that the team remained healthy. The same source believed that Brawn would be installed as the figurehead for the new programme.
"While any announcement will come as some relief for the employees, I expect to see 200-300 jobs being cut," it was claimed, "Ross will lead the operation, while Nick Fry - to the disappointment of some - will also be involved, although most likely in a more junior role this time."
Neither 'insider' could shed any further light on the driver situation, although both expected an announcement to follow shortly, given the limited amount of time between confirmation of the team's future and the first round of the world championship, in Melbourne, late next month. Jenson Button is almost certain to lead the line-up, with the second seat set to be debated between Brazilians Rubens Barrichello and Bruno Senna.
"They're going to have to make a decision soon," our source insisted, "and who would you rather have given that it's a new car.....?"