Nick Fry has responded to accusations that he is presiding over a conflict of interest in having submitted his own bid to take over Honda's defunct Formula 1 outfit – as he suggested that 'attempts are being made by certain parties to frustrate this process'.
There was widespread surprise, and not a little anger, within the grand prix paddock when it was revealed last week that in addition to vetting the general bidding process for the Brackley-based operation – put up for sale by the parent company in Japan back at the beginning of December as a result of falling car sales precipitated by the global economic downturn – Fry was at the same time formulating his own management buy-out package [see separate story – click here
It has even been claimed that the British Government has been asked to step in over the matter, amidst fears that the Englishman is not acting in the squad's best interests.
Fry, however, who has been a key figure at Honda F1 since 2002, when he took on the role of managing director at what was then BAR-Honda, insists that the procedure is all above-board. He has previously stated that there are as many as twelve interested buyers.
“I would like to make clear that the Honda Motor Company, as the owner of the Honda Racing F1 team, will decide on the future of our team following their decision to withdraw from Formula 1,” he is quoted as having said by international news agency Reuters
“At all times during the process of securing the future of the team, senior managers from the Honda Motor Co. have been present at our headquarters in Brackley to assist in making decisions, and we have taken legal advice at all times to ensure no conflict of interest.
“It is evident that attempts are being made by certain parties to frustrate this process, [but] we will not be deterred from our focus of securing a positive future for the team and our 700 employees and achieving our target of lining up on the grid in Melbourne for the start of the 2009 season.”
In order to do that, whoever does end up purchasing the team will also need to secure an engine-supplier, after Ferrari announced last week that it would not
be willing to oblige, having previously hinted that a collaboration was possible. A potential saviour has since emerged, however, in the form of McLaren partner Mercedes-Benz, which towards the end of last year tied up a similar deal to support Silverstone minnows Force India.
“They approached (McLaren CEO) Martin [Whitmarsh] quite a while ago,” the Stuttgart manufacturer's Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug confessed. “The timing is anything other than fantastic obviously, but we still could do it. There is not a deadline like tomorrow or next week, but of course time is running out.
“I am not informed currently of how the situation at Honda is developing. I think the people there did a good job and we have a good relationship with (team principal) Ross [Brawn]. We have known him for a long time.
“It would be great if that team could be on the grid in Melbourne and if we could contribute with engines. This is not a sponsorship deal; it is a financial deal and we need to get the finances right and then we can help.”