TOKYO, February 24 – Honda said Monday that talks over the sale of its Formula One team were proving tough with few "serious" bidders."The reality is that talks are proceeding with great difficulty," Honda Motor president Takeo Fukui said.
Honda has received several proposals, "but actually there are very few who are serious about buying it," he said at a news conference to announce his retirement in June.
The Japanese carmaker announced its shock withdrawal from F1 in December because of the financial crisis, leaving the future of drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello in limbo.
Honda has not ruled out the option of disbanding the team, but says it still hopes to reach a deal in time for the start of the next season on March 29.
Racing "is very challenging but also fun," said Takanobu Ito, the 55-year-old engineer who will replace Fukui.
"Unfortunately, our company has a slight cold right now. But we would like to cure this cold as quickly as possible and work towards reaching that happiness" of racing, he said.
Last week Japan’s second largest automaker said that it was in talks with potential buyers including British tycoon Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.
Honda Racing chief executive Nick Fry and team principal Ross Brown are also reported to be leading a management buyout bid for the British-based team, which employs roughly 700 people.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Britain’s News of the World that the Honda Racing bosses had rejected his offer of 100 million pounds (145 million dollars) to help rescue the team, preferring to go it alone.
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.