David Richards has said that he 'disagrees' with those who claim Honda's moribund Formula 1 team is 'an attractive proposition', as it has emerged that he is the favourite to purchase and take over the squad ahead of the 2009 season.

Honda in Japan has given the Brackley-based concern a deadline of January by which to find a buyer - or else see its doors closed for good, and up to 800 employees out of work. The team's CEO Nick Fry has stated that there are already three interested parties, and Richards is believed to be the most serious of them.

The 56-year-old was previously in charge of the erstwhile BAR-Honda outfit from 2002 until it gained 'works' status in 2004 - though he fell out with lead driver Jenson Button before leaving - and his independent Prodrive operation was close to joining the grand prix grid this year before the customer car row halted its bid in its tracks.

Now, British newspaper the Daily Mail contends, Richards could be on the brink of returning to the top flight, having already contacted two interested partners who are keen for him to spearhead the project. The parties in question, it is reported, are Dubai Investment Capital, which through Magma Group came close to buying out the defunct, Honda-powered Super Aguri team earlier this year, and respected leading F3 team owner Trevor Carlin.

Honda's F1 concern has been put on the market for a nominal fee of just $1, with Honda Japan pledging to take care of all outstanding debts - Honda spent more than any other team in the highest echelon this year, for a meagre return of just 14 points and last position but one in the constructors' standings.

However, the successful buyer would need to convince the car maker that it can securely safeguard the outfit's future, on a budget that it set to be dramatically slashed from $300 million to as little as $70 million.

"I'm keeping an open mind," underlined Richards. "You could say that the facilities Honda have make it an attractive proposition, but I disagree.

"The overheads are not what would be needed in an age when Formula 1 is cutting costs. I won't rush into anything."

"We have to have credible interest this side of Christmas," added Fry in an interview with the BBC. "Clearly, that doesn't mean we are going to have a deal done by the end of the year, but Honda need to be convinced there are serious, potential buyers out there."